Drug-related deaths in Edinburgh DOUBLE in ten years

DRUGS deaths have more than doubled in the Capital over the last ten years, newly published official statistics show.

Tuesday, 16th July 2019, 5:26 pm
Drugs deaths are up across the Lothians

DRUGS deaths have more than doubled in the Capital over the last ten years, newly published official statistics show.

There were 95 fatalities last year compared to 45 in 2009 while National Records of Scotland figures also reveal a massive decade rise in the Lothians as a whole - from 81 to 152.

The 1,187 deaths nationally in 2018 were the most since records began in 1996 and the highest rate in the EU, prompting calls for the UK Government to radically overhaul policy.

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“The number of people who have lost their lives because of drug use is shocking,” said Scotland’s Public Health Minister Joe FitzPatrick.

“It is vital this tragedy is treated as a public health issue, and we are prepared to take innovative and bold measures in order to save the lives of those most at risk.”

Experts blamed rising deaths on ageing users taking a lethal cocktail of heroin and pills bought on the streets.

All parties at Holyrood except the Tories called for safer consumption facilities, while the Lib Dems also pushed for decriminalisation for personal use.

Lib Dem MSP for Edinburgh Western Alex Cole-Hamilton said: “This has had a profound human cost. We need an immediate change of course.”

The Royal College of Psychiatrists in Scotland also called for so-called ‘fix rooms’ - already introduced in European countries including Denmark.

The Scottish Conservatives said this option - blocked by the Home Office - is “cowardly” and said Holyrood should boost funds for rehab and “abstinence-based recovery”.

Deaths in East Lothian jumped from six in 2009 to 18 last year - Midlothian saw a rise from nine to 14 and West Lothian from 21 to 25 over the same period.

Scotland’s drugs death rate is nearly triple that of the UK as a whole and was up 27 percent in the last year - topping 1,000 for the first time.

Deaths from opiates or opioids, such as heroin, morphine, or methadone, were implicated in, or potentially contributed to, 1,021 deaths.

For the heroin replacement methadone, which is available on prescription, this was 47 percent of all drug deaths, more than heroin or morphine at 45 percent.

Benzodiazepines were implicated in, or potentially contributed to, 792 deaths.

The vast majority of these involved so-called ‘street’ versions such as etizolam at 675 - 57 percent of all drug deaths in 2018 - while 238 involved prescription benzodiazepines such as diazepam.

Cocaine was implicated in 273 deaths, alcohol 156, amphetamines 46 and ecstasy-type drugs in 35.

Figures indicate many deaths potentially involved more than one drug.

Men accounted for the majority (72 percent) of the drug-related deaths while the 442 victims who died aged 35-44 were the age group associated with the most deaths.

Lothian MSP Miles Briggs said: “We are the only party which has brought forward a radical new approach to redesign and invest in addiction services and rehabilitation across Scotland. It’s time for a radical new approach that gives people with addictions and their families hope.”