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Minister calls for consumption room approval.
New figures showing there were almost 1,200 drug-related deaths last year have been described as shocking by Public Health Minister Joe FitzPatrick.
The National Records of Scotland statistics reveal there were 1,187 drug-related deaths registered in Scotland in 2018, the largest number ever recorded.
Mr FitzPatrick has said that what Scotland faces in terms of drug-related deaths is an emergency. Earlier this month, he appointed Professor Catriona Matheson as chair of a new taskforce which will advise on what further changes, in practice or in law, could help save lives and reduce harm.
In addition, the Scottish Government’s refreshed alcohol and drug strategy, backed by further investment of £20 million a year, sets out a range of measures to prevent drug-related harm. This includes an eight point treatment plan which outlines ways of improving access to effective services and interventions. It also focuses on how we support those who are most at risk and treat the wider issues affecting them.
Commenting on today’s figures, Mr FitzPatrick said:
“The number of people who have lost their lives because of drug use is shocking. It is vital this tragedy is treated as a public health issue, and we are prepared to take innovative and bold measures in order to save the lives of those most at risk.
“Last week, I gave evidence to the Scottish Affairs Committee and I asked for help in persuading the UK Government to either act now to enable us to implement a range of public health focused responses - including the introduction of supervised drug consumption facilities - or devolve the power to the Scottish Parliament so that we can act.
“I want to ensure that the work of the new taskforce which I have established is driven by strong evidence and the voices of those with experience of using drugs, and their families, are heard. I am determined to shape our services in every walk of life to prevent harm and reduce the appalling number of deaths.
“So I will give consideration to any proposals they bring forward which may help to tackle this issue and, ultimately, save lives.”
Chair of the Drug Deaths Taskforce, Professor Catriona Matheson said:
“My thoughts go out to the families and friends of those who have lost loved ones.
“These figures bring the scale of the problem we face in Scotland into sharp focus. The need for urgent action is clear and the taskforce gives us a mechanism to do that.
“It is imperative that the taskforce identifies ways in which we can do more to save the lives of those who are most at risk and we will look carefully at what has worked in other parts of the UK and internationally to ensure we apply strong evidence-based practice.”