The number of drug-related hospital stays in Scotland has seen a slight decrease in the last year after rising steadily for most of the previous decade.
However, the coronavirus lockdowns and emergency measures may be behind the recent decrease, a report from Public Health Scotland (PHS) says.
There were 14,310 drug-related hospital stays in Scotland during the 2020/21 financial year, the equivalent of 270 stays per 100,000 of the population.
This compares to 284 stays per 100,000 in 2019/20.
Patients can have more than one drug-related hospital stay throughout the year.
Opioid drugs similar to heroin were responsible for the highest stay rate at 127 stays per 100,000 people.
Sedative and hypnotic-related drugs reached their highest stay rate yet at 54 per 100,000 of the population.
Stay rates for cannabinoids also reached a record level, at 40 stays per 100,000 of the population.
The PHS report noted there was a sharp decrease in hospital stays for all drugs around the time of the first Covid-19 lockdown.
Those aged between 35 and 44 were most likely to attend general or psychiatric hospitals in relation to drugs while 50% of all patients were from the most deprived areas of Scotland – referred to as deprivation quintile one.
The report stated: “It is not known if the observed changes in the number of stays reflects a genuine difference in the number of such conditions, or a change in hospital admission policies associated with the pandemic.
“While hospital pressures may have eased during the summer 2020 period there were still many social restrictions in place, which may have had an influence on drug use and access to services.”
The latest statistics come after Nicola Sturgeon and Douglas Ross made a rare joint visit to a recovery cafe in Glasgow on Monday.
Mr Ross has said he is now willing to look at the evidence of whether safe drug consumption rooms could help cut deaths, and promised not to oppose the Scottish Government if they launch a pilot scheme.
Meanwhile, Ms Sturgeon has said she is “completely open minded” about the Scottish Conservatives’ plan to put the right for drug and alcohol treatment into law.
A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “We have said a national mission is needed to tackle the drug deaths emergency and we have allocated an additional £250m over the next five years to improve and increase access to services for people affected by drug addiction.
“£100m of this is going towards improving and increasing the provision of residential rehabilitation.
“We are clear that any window of opportunity to engage with people in crisis, including those who have experienced near-fatal overdose, should be explored in order to encourage access to appropriate treatment.
“The implementation of new Medicine-Assisted Treatment (MAT) standards ensure that anyone identified at risk through hospital admission for drug-related harms or near-fatal overdose will be identified and prioritised, and supported into the treatment that is right for them.
“The standards emphasise the importance of giving people an informed choice in the support available to them – an essential part of respecting a person’s rights and dignity.”
The Scottish Government also said it was expanding the use of Naloxone, which can reverse the effects of opioid overdose.
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