A new target is to be introduced to ensure that more people with problematic drug use are accessing life-saving treatments in Scotland.
Currently, around 29,500 people use Opioid Substitution Therapy (OST).
But under the new target, the Scottish Government aims to increase that to 32,000 by April 1, 2024.
The move is in response to the high number of drug deaths in the country, with almost 90% of all drug-related deaths in Scotland currently involving opiates.
From April 2024, the treatment target will be expanded to cover all drugs and alcohol.
Drugs policy minister Angela Constance underlined the need to increase the number of people in treatment.
And she acknowledged the contribution of opiates on drug death numbers.
“We know from a wealth of international evidence that Opioid Substitution Therapy treatment is effective, so increasing the number of people in treatment is central to our national mission on drug deaths,” she said.
“The drug deaths crisis is primarily an opiate one – almost 90% of deaths involve an opiate – which is why we are aiming to increase the number of people prescribed community-based Opioid Substitution Therapy treatment by 2500 (in the region of 9%).
“Of course, we are clear that prescribed drug treatment is not, and cannot be, the only treatment option available.
“While the use of methadone remains a central component of the treatment for opioid dependency, we are also expanding support through our investment into residential rehabilitation and associated aftercare.
“We aim to increase the number of publicly funded placements by more than 300% over the five years of the programme so that, by 2026, at least 1000 people every year are publicly funded for their rehab placement.”
Constance said that she is confident that the targets being set will have a “significant impact” on reducing drug deaths in Scotland.
She continued: “We are also funding a range of grass roots community services to complement the Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT) standards which will support everyone on their recovery journey.
“The treatment target will be expanded to cover all drugs and alcohol from April 2024 and I am confident these targets will have a significant impact on reducing the number of drug deaths in this country.
The minister added: “We are investing a total of £250m over the course of this Parliament in a range of different treatments and services in order that all those affected, and their families, can receive the support which is right for them when they need it.”
Scottish Drugs Forum CEO David Liddell explained the targets will help ensure that efforts are concentrated on getting as many people as possible the help they need.
“We welcome the targets for the treatment of people with a drug problem being put in place by the Scottish Government,” said Liddell.
“The evidence shows that being in Opioid Substitution Therapy is protective against fatal overdose and therefore we desperately need to have more people in treatment and in OST if we are to reduce drug-related deaths in Scotland and deliver the National Mission.
“These targets will help ensure that we concentrate efforts on getting as many people as possible receive the help they need over the long term and not only save but also improve people’s lives.”