Tackling drug deaths
Minister for Community Safety Fergus Ewing today reiterated that the Scottish Government is doing all it can to tackle problem drug use in Scotland.
The pledge came as figures compiled by the General Register Office for Scotland show that there were 545 drug-related deaths in 2009, compared with 574 deaths in 2008.
Mr Ewing said:
"I extend my sympathies to everyone who has been affected by the loss of a loved one. These figures published today remind us that drug misuse destroys lives, and the impact is felt far beyond the individual user.
"Fewer people lost to drug use is always good news, but we must acknowledge that these figures remain high. It is clear we continue to face a challenge to help steer people away from problem drug use and towards recovery.
"The Scottish Government believes that our national drugs strategy, the Road to Recovery, will make the difference. It provides the framework for a generational change in our approach to tackling problem drug use and reducing drug related deaths through a focus on recovery.
"Effective treatment is essential in supporting people towards recovery. That is why we have provided record investment in frontline drug treatment services. In 2010-11, this investment will total £28.6 million - an over 20 per cent increase since 2006-07.
"The Scottish Drugs Recovery Consortium is now bringing together key partners from the voluntary, statutory, policy and academic fields - and individuals in recovery - who share the belief that people can and do recover from drug problems and addiction.
"We are also committed to reducing the time it takes for individuals to access treatment that will support their recovery. That is why the HEAT target has been established, requiring NHS and NHS-funded services to reduce waiting times for drug treatment services. Initial reports suggest that real progress is being made and we are on track to reach the target of 90 per cent of people receiving treatment within three weeks of referral by 2013."
During a visit to Glasgow Addiction Services today, Mr Ewing also announced the roll out of a national Naloxone programme, following a specific recommendation from the National Forum on Drug Related Deaths.
Naloxone is an opiate antidote which temporarily reverses the effects of opiate overdose, providing more time for an ambulance to be called and treatment to be given.
Mr Ewing said:
"Naloxone has the potential to save lives. That is why I want to see it available as widely as possible to those at greatest risk of overdose.
"Naloxone isn't the solution to drug related deaths but it is an important intervention. It has role to play within a wider range of treatment and support in reducing harm and supporting recovery.
Biba Brand, National Quality Development Team Manager of the Scottish Drugs Forum, added:
"We welcome the investment in a national Naloxone programme for Scotland because it has the potential to play an important role in saving lives.
"It has been used in clinical settings as an emergency treatment for opiate overdose for 40 years. In the USA and Europe, take home Naloxone programmes have been linked with reductions in drug deaths of up to 34 percent.
"If people are to have a chance of recovering from a heroin problem - and we are to stop the damage caused to families and communities through these deaths - the first priority is helping people to stay alive. This programme aims to do that."
Dr Roy Robertson, Chair of the National Forum on Drug-Related Deaths, said:
"Taking into account what we have experienced in the past concerning the general upward trend in figures this year's drug related deaths show a similar pattern to previous years. Any reduction is, however, welcome as each death is a personal tragedy and a family and community disaster.
"This year there have been several initiatives and proposed interventions outlined in the annual report of the National Forum on Drug Related Deaths which will hopefully have an impact over the next few years. As ever there is a sense of urgency and a feeling that any initiative is too slow, deaths should be prevented immediately.
"There is an active programme for the coming year and pressure to improve standards and outcomes in supporting people who use drugs is a high priority."
To support local partners in taking the Naloxone programme forward, the Scottish Government is providing £500,000 over two years to ensure:
- all prisons in Scotland will supply Naloxone and training to prisoners vulnerable to overdose before release
- national trainers are available to offer critical incidents and Naloxone training to key workers across Scotland
- that Health boards are reimbursed for every Naloxone kit they give out
- that a programme of evaluation is implemented to determine the long term impact of Naloxone in Scotland