New figures have revealed the number of drug related deaths in the Scottish Borders are at a record high and that Scotland’s drug death rate is now three times higher than the UK average.
Statistics released today show that 1,187 people died following drug use last year, a 27% increase from 2017. It is the highest figure on record and more than twice the rate of a decade ago.
In the Scottish Borders, 22 people died from drugs last year, a record high and an increase of 70% since last year’s high of 13.
It means Scotland has a death rate which is three time higher than the UK and also the worst in the whole of Europe.
The figures also reveal that methadone, the medication prescribed by the NHS for heroin users, contributed to nearly half of all deaths and killed more people that heroin, the drug it is meant to safely replace.
The Scottish Affairs Committee is currently undergoing an inquiry into drug related deaths in Scotland.
Local MP John Lamont, who is a member of the Committee, has been critical of calls for safe consumption rooms, and has suggested that instead of making it easier for people to take dangerous drugs, the focus should be on rehabilitation instead.
John Lamont MP said: “These figures really need to be a wake up call for the SNP. On its watch drug deaths have more than doubled and Scotland is now the drug death capital of Europe. Even in the Borders, where drug deaths are relatively uncommon, the number of deaths have shot up by 70% in the last year.
“The Scottish Government’s excuse for these appalling statistics is that drug classification is reserved to Westminster. However, if this was a major factor, Scotland’s drug death rate wouldn’t be three times higher than the rest of the UK.
“The truth is health, social care, the methadone programme and justice policy are all controlled by Holyrood. Instead of excuses, we need a change of approach and significant investment in rehabilitation.
“During the Scottish Affairs Committee’s inquiry on drug deaths, we have heard time and time again from former users and experts that the current approach in Scotland focuses on simply managing users rather than helping them off drugs.
“People are parked on methadone, which is now causing more deaths than heroin, but there is little incentive to stop using.
“That is why I am concerned about the calls for safe consumption rooms. It’s just another example of trying to manage problem drug users rather than actually helping people come off drugs."