Every drug-related death in Scotland is a tragedy which is “preventable”, ministers have been told ahead of the publication of the latest statistics on the crisis.
Official figures on the number of people to have lost their lives to drugs will be released by the National Records of Scotland on Thursday.
There has been calls to tackle the issue, with the number of drugs deaths hitting a record high in 2020, with 1,339 people in Scotland having lost their lives.
The numbers being published on Thursday will show how many drugs deaths there were in the country in 2021.
Last year’s figures marked the seventh consecutive year that the record was broken.
According to statistics published in March this year, there were 1,295 suspected drug deaths between January and December 2021, 8% (116) fewer than in the same period for 2020.
Recommendations set out by the Scottish Drugs Deaths Taskforce last week included the introduction of drugs consumption rooms, 24/7 emergency care from drug treatment services, and also aftercare for those that have left a service.
The report blamed the death rate on multiple chronic problems including poor physical and mental health, unemployment, unstable housing, involvement with the criminal justice system and family breakdowns.
The Scottish Government has pledged to tackle the issue of drugs deaths and stated that it would consider the proposals made by the taskforce.
Drugs policy minister said that with the backing of an additional £250m over the course of the parliament, the Government is “focussed” on delivery and change on the ground.
Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross has urged MSPs to back his Right to Recovery Bill, which has so far gained sufficient support to enable it to be debated at Holyrood.
The Bill is seeking to give those who are addicted to drugs and/or alcohol the right to access the necessary addiction treatment they need.
Ross has claimed that the Bill can be a “game-changer” in the campaign to reduce drugs deaths in Scotland.
Speaking ahead of the publication of the latest figures on Thursday, Scottish Labour’s drugs policy spokesperson Claire Baker said that the tragic deaths are “devastating families”.
Her party pointed to a report by Public Health Scotland which indicated that more than one in three people who died from a drug-related death in 2018 was a parent or guardian to a child.
It resulted in 566 children losing a parent or guardian to drugs.
“This heart-breaking report is an urgent reminder of the need to tackle Scotland’s drug death crisis and save lives,” said Baker.
“These tragic deaths are devastating families, with hundreds of children having lost a parent and many more people having lost a loved one.
“Every single drug-related death is preventable, and each one is a tragedy.
“The Scottish Government need to respond to the recommendations of the Scottish Drug Death Taskforce and deliver the meaningful change we desperately need, including investing in services and finally delivering the MAT standards.”
Scottish Conservative health spokesman Dr Sandesh Gulhane insisted that a substantial reduction in the number of fatalities is “desperately” needed in the latest figures.
“Scotland’s drugs-death epidemic is a national tragedy which ought to shame the SNP government,” said Gulhane.
“The number of fatalities has risen year on year on Nicola Sturgeon’s watch to last year’s appalling record high of 1,339.
“These figures mean Scotland has not just the worst death rate per head of population in Europe – but the worst by such an enormous margin that it’s hard to get your head around.
“We desperately need to see a substantial reduction in the number of fatalities when the 2021 figures are announced.”
Gulhane called on the SNP to back his party’s Right to Recovery Bill at Holyrood.
“The SNP cannot claim success when we’re still losing 1,000 people every single year,” he continued.
“It would be shameful if they tried to spin Scotland still having the worst drug-death rate in Europe as some kind of victory.
“The Scottish Conservatives’ Right to Recovery Bill can be a game-changer because it will enshrine in law the right of everyone with addiction problems to receive the potentially life-saving treatment they need.
“The SNP have said they will give it a fair hearing in parliament – but that’s not good enough. They need to get off the fence and back the bill so that we can start tackling this national emergency now.”
He added: “Nicola Sturgeon admitted, shamefully, that she took her eye off the ball on drugs deaths. It’s essential she finally focuses on it.”
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