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Suspected drug deaths increase by 17%, new figures show

The figures were released on Tuesday (Paul Faith/PA)
The figures were released on Tuesday (Paul Faith/PA)

The number of suspected drug deaths in Scotland has increased by 17% in the past year, new figures show.

According to figures from Public Health Scotland as part of its Rapid Action Drug Alerts and Response (Radar) initiative, 294 suspected drug deaths were logged between December 2023 and the end of February 2024.

Of those deaths, 96 were in December, 103 in January and 95 in February.

The figure increased from 251 in the previous quarter and was up by 10% on the quarter up to February 2022 and around the same level as the quarter up to February 2023.

A suspected drug death is yet to be confirmed, but is reported by Police Scotland where officers believe the death had been caused by drugs.

Attendances at A&E for drug-related reasons in the 13-week period up to March 3, the figures showed, dropped by 13% based on the previous period, from 1,142 to 1,009.

The Scottish Ambulance Service also reported a 14% drop in the number of times naloxone – the anti-overdose drug – was administered in the same period, falling from 1,020 to 879.

The figures come as Scotland remains in the grip of a drug deaths crisis, with 1,051 people dying from drugs in 2022 – a drop from the previous year and the lowest figure since 2017.

Scottish Tory MSP Sue Webber described the figures as “utterly appalling”, adding: “It should be a source of shame for SNP ministers that drug deaths are continuing to skyrocket on their watch.

“Far too many families across Scotland are grieving for a loved one lost to addiction and my heart goes out to them.”

Ms Webber went on to urge MSPs to back her party’s Right to Recovery Bill, which was tabled by leader Douglas Ross and would enshrine in law the right to treatment for addiction.

She added: “Rather than continuing to ignore this crisis, the SNP should back the Right to Recovery Bill that would enshrine in law a right for everyone who needs it to access treatment, including residential rehabilitation.

“For far too long, the most vulnerable in our society have been failed by those in charge, which is why I hope MSPs from all parties will support the Bill.”