Posted on: 22 August, 2023
Today the National Records for Scotland released figures revealing a minor decrease in the number of people dying from drugs in the country, covering the 12 months up until March 2022.
Whilst this represents a 21% decrease compared to the last figures, this number is currently at 1,051 people.
1,051 people who have lost their lives to avoidable, preventable drug related deaths. Each death is a tragedy for the lost life, and the loved ones who have lost a brother, husband, son or daughter. This incremental decrease must not be viewed as success and complacency must be guarded against at all costs.
Scotland still has the highest drug related death figures in Europe, and we must take urgent action to turn the tide further. These unacceptable figures are a beacon of shame, that in any part of the UK so many people are dying from preventable deaths like these.
The figures released today are almost 18 months old. The situation has developed since already, which is giving providers great concern that this decrease may not be a continued trend without immediate action. A Whole System approach, encompassing a range of evidence based solutions is desperately needed before this crisis potentially escalates further.
This year, providers are witnessing a higher prevalence of contaminated, synthetic drugs called nitazenes – an opioid between 50-300 times more potent than heroin. This could wreak havoc in a similar fashion to the United States, where fentanyl is the biggest killer of people under the age of 50.
Government and treatment providers simply cannot afford to wait two years for the figures to be released to respond to this, by then thousands more people may well have died a preventable death. The Scottish Government recently produced a report recommending a range of measures, and these must be implemented at the earliest possible opportunity. This issue does not just impact Scotland, but across the UK, where the number of deaths and rate is among the highest in Europe.
There is considerable cross-party support in Scotland for holistic support and significant changes in how we approach the drugs crisis. This includes support for Overdose Prevention Centres, for an accessible, integrated model of Diamorphine Assisted Treatment which will keep people safe, help to break stigma and support, and not punish people suffering from addiction.
Cranstoun has campaigned extensively in Holyrood, with 28 Members of Scottish Parliament backing a call for an Overdose Prevention Centre in Dundee, and the local Drug and Alcohol Partnership is currently reviewing the feasibility of an integrated Diamorphine Assisted Treatment pilot in the city – one of the worst affected by the crisis.
We strongly urge the Scottish and UK Governments, alongside Parliamentarians and policy makers, to work cohesively and with the upmost urgency to find solutions that will prevent further suffering and continue to turn the tide on Britain’s shame of being the drug death capital of Europe.
Megan Jones, Director at Cranstoun, said: “Today’s figures represent a minor improvement on the figures but this must be viewed within the context of spiralling increases in deaths over the past years. The level of suffering and death, without concrete action to address this, remains a shame on this country.
“Treatment providers are witnessing extremely concerning reports of the emergence of synthetic opioids into the drug supply – namely nitazenes, which are around 50-300 times more potent than heroin – and we simply cannot wait two years for the figures for these deaths to spiral once again.
“We are calling on the Government to take immediate action to prevent this tragic level of suffering.”
Peter Krykant, who founded the first unsanctioned Overdose Prevention Centre and is now the Campaigns Lead at Cranstoun said: “Today’s figures highlight the urgent need for immediate action to prevent the further loss of tragic life. Scotland remains the country with one of the highest rate of drug deaths in Europe, yet we still await the implementation of a evidence based solutions to prevent harm and protect life. We call on both the UK and Scottish Government to take immediate action.”