In Brief

What is behind the surge in drug deaths in Scotland?

New report will show that deaths from drugs have surged in the country

More than 1,000 people died as a result of result of drugs in Scotland last year, new data to be released today will show.

The country already had more than twice the rate of drug deaths as the rest of the UK and the worst record for reported drug deaths in Europe, but the new statistics will show an escalation.

Why are there so many deaths in Scotland?

Dr Saket Priyadarshi, of NHS addiction services, recently told MPs that Scotland had more than twice the rate of drug deaths as the rest of the UK because it had far more problem users.

He added that users in Scotland were taking a deadly cocktail of drugs that combined opiates such as heroin and methadone with benzodiazepines, pills often known as street valium or street blues.

The country’s drug laws are also being blamed. Just weeks ago, the Daily Record launched a campaign calling for the decriminalisation of drug use. “People are dying,” it said. “We have to help them by treating drugs as a health issue and not turning users into criminals.”

It said that having spoken to “doctors, politicians, academics, recovery groups and former drug addicts” they “overwhelmingly” said drugs should be treated as a health issue rather than a criminal one.

What can be done to address the problem?

According to the Daily Record, other nations, including Germany, Spain, Switzerland, Canada and Portugal have relaxed the punitive attitude to drug possession to enable treatment programmes to thrive.

It suggested that the Westminster could hand over the power to Holyrood to “finally start applying progressive and effective solutions to this unmitigated crisis” and get more people into treatment.

The demography of drug users is also responsible for the higher death rate. Scotland’s population of drug addicts, mainly men, who have been using heroin for decades are now also taking new street pills, often containing etizolam which is stronger than prescription benzodiazepine.

Last week, Scottish Public Health Minister Joe Fitzpatrick said the level of drug deaths was an "emergency". He told MPs this should be a "wake-up call" over UK government policy.

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