Stuart McMillan MSP for Greenock and Inverclyde has commented on the latest drug-related deaths figures published today by the National Records of Scotland (NRS).
These statistics cover drug-related deaths in Scotland in 2019.
“The NRS report makes for sobering reading as there were 1,264 drug-related deaths in Scotland last year – the largest number ever recorded.
“The median age of drug-related deaths has increased from 28 to 42 over the last 20 years, which should be reflected on to help inform efforts to tackle drug misuse in Scotland.
“Locally there were 33 drug-related deaths, up from 24 in 2018. My thoughts are with everyone who has been affected by drug misuse and with those who have sadly lost a loved one through addiction.
“These latest statistics are a sharp reminder to all levels of government that more must be done to alleviate the factors that can lead to drug misuse and invest in holistic rehabilitation.
“As a Board Member of Moving On Inverclyde, I know first-hand the challenges we face locally with regards to alcohol and drug misuse, but I also know that work is ongoing and improvements are being made to the support that is available.
“I believe that this issue should be addressed through a public health approach in order to deliver transformative change not just for those living with addiction, but their friends, families and communities too. The fact that 16 local drug-related deaths involved methadone shows that the current policy on this is not helping people recover and is certainly not preventing deaths.
“On 27 February 2020, the UK Government hosted a summit in Glasgow on tackling drug misuse. One of my staff members attended this event on my behalf and recalled that the phrase “they talk, we die” was used to sum up the situation across Scotland and the UK as a whole.
“Unfortunately the COVID-19 situation has further stalled efforts on this issue, which is why it’s more important than ever that action is not put off any longer.
“Dame Carol Black’s independent Review of Drugs 2020, commissioned by the UK Government, makes clear that recovery is about more than just treatment. Other factors like housing and employment are particularly important – hence why coming at this from a criminal perspective is not working.
“Providing support for people with addictions and tackling this crisis involves local, national and UK governments working together to ensure adequate funding is in place and that policy-making focuses on the public health aspects of this issue.
“Scotland was the first country in the world to introduce a national naloxone programme, empowering individuals, families, friends and communities to reverse opiate overdose. We have also invested in the Housing First initiative to try to prevent homelessness, which gives people living with addictions security and safety to help them on their route to recovery.
“But while the Scottish Government lacks crucial powers in this area, we are working with one hand tied behind our back.
“Research has shown the benefits of drug consumption rooms, which the UK Government will not give permission to the Scottish Government to pilot. This is just one example where not having all the levers of power at our disposal are curtailing efforts to deliver long-lasting change and reverse the trend on drug-related deaths.”