First drug deaths meeting takes place in Edinburgh

People with lived experience will help shape services.

Members of the new Taskforce set up to address drug deaths in Scotland have met for the first time in Edinburgh.

The group, chaired by Professor Catriona Matheson of the University of Stirling, is examining the main causes of drug deaths and will promote action to improve health outcomes for people who use drugs. The Taskforce will also consider what changes, in practice or in the law, could help save lives.

It was confirmed that three additional members have been appointed to the Taskforce, all of whom have lived experience of drug use.

The group considered the best way to ensure the voices of those with lived and living experience are heard, as their views and insight will be central to the work of the Taskforce. They also discussed the use of harm reduction interventions, specifically naloxone and Opioid Substitution Therapy.

This first meeting follows a commitment made in the Programme for Government to spend an additional £20 million over the next two years to reduce the harm caused by drugs. The funding will also allow the Taskforce to support specific projects, test new evidence-based approaches and drive forward work to improve quality of services.

Public Health Minister Joe FitzPatrick said:

“We had good, constructive discussions around this public health emergency today and the ways in which we might tackle it. We know there is no easy solution and driving down the shocking statistics on drug deaths we saw this year will be challenging and will take time. We all, however, recognise the need for urgent and immediate action.

“We will draw on the experience and expertise of the Taskforce members and those with lived experience to shape how services in Scotland could save lives.

“Building on increases in funding in recent years, we’re investing a further £20 million over the next two years to help deliver the proposals which come forward.”

Professor Matheson said:

“After some very informative presentations from a number of experts, the group discussed a number of key issues which will now be taken forward.

“I would like to thank all the members for their time and contributions today, and going forward, as we seek to address the considerable challenge of drug related deaths, I am reassured by the total commitment shown to make progress.

“This is a highly complex matter that needs to be addressed from a number of angles and I am confident that we will be able to take action that can make a difference. I look forward to progressing this work over the coming months.”


The Drug Deaths Taskforce has been established by the Minister for Public Health and Sport, supported by the Cabinet Secretary for Justice, to enable the delivery of the strategy.

The taskforce will monitor, support and facilitate the delivery of the commitments set out in the Scottish Government’s national alcohol and drug strategy “Rights, Respect, and Recovery” which outlines a number of measures designed to reduce harm, and death.

Full membership of taskforce


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