A new initiative launched at the Scottish Drugs Forum (SDF)’s annual conference is calling for a national focus on preventing drug deaths, and reinforces the message that ‘prevention is possible and we all have our parts to play’.
#StopTheDeaths, which is timed to mark International Overdose Awareness Day on 31 August, wants to see all stakeholders make the agenda a priority and also offers a ‘message of hope’ – that ‘we can respond to record drug deaths by developing a world-leading response to this national challenge and aspire to eliminate drug overdose deaths’.
The last three years have seen record drug deaths in Scotland, with 867 in 2016 – 23 per cent up on the year before, and almost double the figure from a decade ago (DDN, September 2017, page 4) – rising by 8 per cent to 934 in 2017 (DDN, July/August, page 4). The #StopTheDeaths initiative also focuses on drug-related fatalities that are not the result of an overdose, such as those caused by the health effects of chronic drug use. The campaign is aimed not just at policy makers and service providers, but people who use drugs and their families and communities.
‘From speaking to our members across Scotland, it is clear that the number of drug-related deaths continues to rise at what now seems an exponential rate,’ said SDF CEO David Liddell. ‘This means that in 2018 Scotland will almost certainly suffer over 1,000 preventable overdose deaths. #StopTheDeaths is a call to refocus our actions and to draw attention to evidence-based approaches and protective factors that can be deployed now.’
These included making sure people had fast access to, and were retained in, high quality treatment services, as well as provision of a wide range of therapies – including heroin-assisted treatment – and improved access to take-home naloxone. SDF is also launching a free e-learning course to coincide with the campaign, covering how to recognise an overdose and use naloxone to reverse it.
‘The good news is that drug deaths are being prevented every day in Scotland,’ Mr Liddell added. ‘However, we need a step change in terms of a co-ordinated approach and further innovation that can meet the scale of this challenge if we are to avoid the course we appear to be on. The Scottish Government’s new national drug strategy is an opportunity to show leadership, redirect the nation and decide to end this tragic situation.’
Naloxone course at www.sdfworkforcedevelopment.org.uk
More on International Overdose Awareness Day and naloxone initiatives in September’s DDN, out on 10 September