Welcome to the National Forum on Drug-Related Deaths 2011/12 Annual Report. This is the Forum's fifth report and comes at a time when scrutiny of drug policy is intense. As announced at the Forum's media briefing on 17 August 2012, regrettably the number of deaths in Scotland in which controlled drugs were implicated, increased in 2011 for the first time since 2008. The 584 drug-related deaths in 2011 are the highest ever recorded and, for the first time, methadone was implicated in, or contributed to, almost half of the deaths.
In response to concerns expressed by the public about drug-related deaths where methadone was implicated, the Minister for Community Safety and Legal Affairs, Roseanna Cunningham established an Independent Expert Group (announced in October 2012). The purpose of the group is to gather evidence on practice and experience of opiate replacement therapies, like methadone, and community and residential rehabilitation. The Expert Group is led by the Chief Medical Officer in collaboration with the independent Drugs Strategy Delivery Commission and is due to report its findings to the Scottish Government in Spring 2013. The Forum will have an opportunity to work with, and offer evidence, to this independent group. These 2011 drug death figures also generated considerable interest in the Scottish Parliament. A parliamentary debate was held in November 2012, on the national drugs strategy the Road to Recovery led by the Minister. Following the debate political consensus for the strategy was re-confirmed.
Despite the disappointment and challenge represented by the figures, the Forum and its members remain committed to understanding and reducing drug-related deaths in Scotland, and the expertise and output of the Forum will, of course, inform the important work of the independent expert group.
Chapter one of this report provides information on the Forum's work and progress during 2011/12. Chapter two highlights key priority areas of work that need to be further progressed to help reduce drug-related deaths. Chapter three focuses on two key recommendations that the Forum recognises as very important interventions in reducing drug-related deaths in Scotland. The Forum's more detailed response to the drug-related deaths statistics for 2011 is included in chapter four and the Forum's insights from the National Drug-Related Deaths Database findings on deaths in 2010 is detailed in chapter five. Scotland's National Naloxone Programme is progressing well across the country and an update on progress is provided in chapter six.
The work of the Forum in 2011/12 has been wide ranging, influential and has required considerable investment of time and resources from the Drugs Policy Unit and the members of the groups. Special appreciation must go to John Somers, Kathleen Glazik and other members of the Scottish Government's Drugs Policy Unit for their commitment, guidance and support, and also to Dr. Lesley Graham and Gordon Bruce from Information Services Division Scotland for their management and reporting on the National Drug Deaths Database. The invaluable work of Drug Deaths Coordinators in all the Alcohol and Drug Partnerships is also acknowledged.
Dr. Roy Robertson and Dr. Saket Priyadarshi
National Forum on Drug-related Deaths in Scotland
Email: Kathleen Glazik