Drug-related hospital admissions in Lothian soar, MSPs hear during debate on drugs deaths
Hospital admissions in Lothian for drugs has risen by 21 per cent over the past five years, including a 300 per cent increase in cases involving cocaine.
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The majority of hospital admissions were for opioids, with the number of patients increasing from 699 in 2015/16 to 864 in 2019/20, a 24 per cent increase.
Admissions for sedatives/hypnotics more than doubled from 147 to 300 and cases involving cannabinoids rose from 216 to 354, an increase of 64 per cent.
The figures were quoted by Lothian Tory MSP Miles Briggs as the Scottish Parliament debated Scotland’s drug-related deaths, which are far higher per capita than any other European country.
Mr Briggs said the spirit of urgency seen in the response to the Covid pandemic needed to be brought to the drug deaths crisis.
"Speaking to people who are in services today or trying to access services it is clear we are only at the very start of the necessary reforms that can make a real difference and start to turn around the unacceptable levels of drug related deaths and harms in our society.
“Many people working on the frontline have told me they expect higher drug deaths for 2020 when the figures are published next month. The pain and heartbreak for so many families across Scotland is set to continue and the negative impact of the pandemic cannot underestimated, but cannot be used as an excuse.”
And he spoke of a childhood friend, Jamie Murray who died from a drug related death last year.
“Jamie was found dead in a flat in Perth on September 1. His mum Jane bravely spoke out about the chaotic approach Jamie faced trying to access support services and rehab.
"For too long many families have felt excluded and have had to fight for everything for their loved ones, at the same time facing stigma and even sometimes blame.”
Mr Briggs – who backed his party’s call for a “right to rehab” – quoted Jamie’s mother describing her experience.
“Jane said: ‘I used to go with Jamie to meetings where he would be handed leaflets about methadone programmes, but when he’d beg to be sent for residential rehab, he was told there wasn’t any funding. He’d ask to get taken off methadone as the side effects are so awful, but when he asked to have his dose reduced or to try a different treatment he was told no. It was soul destroying and easy to see why he felt like he was on an endless roundabout with no way off.’”
Mr Briggs praised those working in addiction services, but said a key issue was continuity of care.
And he quoted Jane again.
“She says: ‘As soon as Jamie would build up trust in one worker, they would move on, leaving him to start at the beginning again.
“What we did see was catastrophic policies which did not involve methadone reduction, but they did insist that if anyone had a dirty test they were out of the program after one strike. That threw vulnerable addicts into the clutches of drug dealers, taking whatever they could get their hands on – even though everyone knew street Valium was killing hundreds of them.’”