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Drugs deaths situation remains ‘unacceptable’

Official statistics for 2021 show decrease of 1%.

While welcoming an end to seven annual increases in drugs deaths, Drugs Policy Minister Angela Constance made clear the situation remains “unacceptable”, and work will continue at pace to address the emergency.

The latest National Records of Scotland statistics show 1,330 people lost their lives in 2021 - a decrease of 1% and Ms Constance says it is clear there remains much work to do to save lives.

A national mission was announced in January 2021 to tackle rising death deaths in Scotland with additional funding of £250 million over the course of this Parliament.

The first year of the national mission has seen the introduction of Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT) Standards, the expansion of residential rehabilitation provision, the setting of a new treatment target, increased funding to community and grass-roots organisations and the laying of ground work for innovation such as Safer Drug Consumption Facilities. 

Ms Constance said:

“Scotland suffers a terrible toll from drug deaths, leaving families grieving and in pain and my heart goes out to all those affected by the death of a loved one through drugs.

“These latest statistics provide yet more heart-breaking reading, and the situation remains unacceptable. While there is so much more work to do, every life saved means one less family grieving and I am determined we can use this halt in the upward trend of recent years as a platform for real change.

“My focus now is on taking action and delivering new investment to improve services and get more people into the treatment which works for them. Residential rehabilitation is one of a range of treatment options available and today I am visiting River Garden Auchincruive to speak to residents and staff about the services provided. Later I will be meeting some families affected by a loved one’s drug use and asking what more we can do to help.

“I am concerned about the rise in deaths among women and will look to expand on current steps we are taking including the provision of two Mother and Child Residential Recovery Houses which will enable women to receive support while staying with their children.

“Despite regional differences, we are focused on a national mission and I’ll continue to use all the powers at my disposal, including holding local leaders to account in implementing the MAT standards, to drive improvements across Scotland.

“We are already implementing many of the recommendations from The Drug Deaths Taskforce, which issued its final recommendations last week, and I will report back on further actions to Parliament.

“In the first year of the National Mission we built the foundations for change. Now, with the backing of £250 million over the course of this Parliament, we will deliver on those foundations and our new Oversight Group will provide scrutiny, challenge and expert advice on the National Mission as we continue our efforts to improve and save lives.”

River Garden Operations Manager Mikael Heddelin said:

“We offer a very different approach to recovery which allows residents to leave behind their addictions.

“Importantly that comes from communal support of peers and meaningful and qualitative work via our on-site social enterprises. We provide training, help develop competence in a range of areas and facilitate reintegration back into society.

“Peer support and lived experience are key elements in the recovery journey at River Garden. Our ethos and culture allows our residents to recover without stigma and the local community play a huge part in what we do.”

River Garden resident Paul said: 

“I grew up in care and began using drugs at the age of 12. Throughout my life I tried various rehabs, none of them worked.

“At the age of 47 I joined River Garden. I have been here almost two years and I have purpose and self-worth. I’m happy and healthy and I feel good about myself.

“River Garden has been totally transformational for me. I really enjoy the work and the camaraderie. I have made many friends amongst the volunteers, the visitors
and the contactors who work at River Garden.”


Link to National Records of Scotland Drug-related deaths in Scotland


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