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15 Dec, 2020 14:44

‘National tragedy and disgrace’: Scotland reports worst drug death toll since records began more than 20 years ago

‘National tragedy and disgrace’: Scotland reports worst drug death toll since records began more than 20 years ago

Scotland has had its worst year yet in terms of deaths from drug overdoses since the government began tracking the data in the mid-1990s.

A total of 1,264 people died from drug overdoses last year, the latest National Records of Scotland (NRS) report said. This is the largest number of drug-related deaths since records began in 1996, and more than double the number recorded a decade ago.

Over two-thirds of the victims were men aged 35-54. The vast majority of deaths – 1,092 – were linked to opioids, including heroin, morphine and methadone. ‘Street’ and ‘prescribable’ benzodiazepines, like diazepam, contributed to 814 and 195 deaths respectively, and cocaine contributed to 365.

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Moreover, the Herald newspaper said the reported rate of fatal overdoses in Scotland was more than three times higher than in the UK as a whole and the highest in the EU. David Liddell, the head of the Scottish Drugs Forum (SDF) charity, called the alarming figures a “national tragedy and disgrace,” and called for more treatment programmes and the decriminalisation of drug possession.

“The statistics announced today are a grievous reminder of the human cost of the ongoing public health crisis we face in Scotland,” Liddell said.

Catriona Matheson of the University of Stirling told BBC Scotland on Monday that the situation demonstrated the public was “ignoring an underserved part of the population who we have really just neglected.”

Last year, Liddell reported that around 60,000 people in Scotland had drug problems. He said the problem could be traced to “the harsh climate of 1980s deindustrialisation” and the ensuing poverty.

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