Scotland saw 295 suspected drug deaths recorded between October and December last year, according to the latest Police Scotland management information. The number is more than 25 per cent up on the previous quarter and the highest recorded in a single quarter since April to June 2021.
Overall, however, there were 1,092 suspected drug deaths recorded in the whole of 2022, which was 16 per cent down on the previous year. Men accounted for 70 per cent of the deaths, with deaths among women down by 9 per cent compared to 2021. As in previous years, two thirds of the deaths were in the 35-54 age group, with the Greater Glasgow police division recording the highest number of suspected deaths at 215.
The quarterly police figures are based on the reports of attending officers and are ‘not subject to the same level of validation and quality assurance’ as the annual official reports from National Records of Scotland, which are drawn from death certificates and pathologist reports.
In 2021 the country recorded its first fall in drug deaths in almost a decade, although it was by just one per cent. Scotland’s rate of drug-related deaths is three and half times greater than for the UK as a whole, and higher than anywhere in Europe. In its final report, the Scottish Drug Deaths Taskforce stated that the issue had not been given the priority it deserves (www.drinkanddrugsnews.com/time-for-a-complete-culture-change-says-drug-deaths-taskforces-final-report).
‘Every drug death is preventable, so I will never understand why the SNP, by its own admission, took its eye off the ball and chose to ignore the crisis as it unfolded,’ said leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats Alex Cole-Hamilton. ‘As Nicola Sturgeon departs Bute House, she leaves behind an appalling legacy that is this country’s drug deaths crisis.’ Radical change was needed, he added, with his party calling for decriminalisation of drug use and implementation of consumption rooms.
Meanwhile, the Scottish Drugs Forum (SDF) has announced that Kirsten Horsburgh will be its new CEO from June this year, following the retirement of Dave Liddell. ‘I am delighted that Kirsten has been appointed as the next CEO,’ said Liddell. ‘Kirsten has worked with me for 11 years and since she started has shown excellent leadership qualities, initially in driving forward the implementation of the naloxone programme and latterly as director of operations. I look forward to working with Kirsten over the next couple of months to ensure a smooth transition into her new role.’
A new report from SDF states how Peer-to-peer naloxone programmes can help to reduce stigma and boost confidence, and if rolled out further could help to reduce Scotland’s drug-related death rate.