Drug-related deaths in Scotland are more than three and a half times higher than in the rest of the UK and the highest of any European country. Year after year we get the statistics on alcohol and drug related deaths and year after year more Scots die from these two causes.
In Lothian the number of people who died from alcohol in 2020, the latest figures available, was 184. This compares to 127 alcohol deaths in 2011 when the SNP took full power.
Drug deaths in Lothian have risen for the past five consecutive years, with 159 people dying from drugs in 2020. The number has more than doubled since 2011, when 73 people lost their lives.
Every drug and alcohol related death is a tragedy and my deepest condolences go out to the families and friends, across Edinburgh and Lothians, who have lost loved ones to these causes.
It is distressing that the number of people dying from alcohol and drugs continues to rise and that consecutive SNP ministers have not had the answers to reduce the number of people dying.
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Earlier this month, the Scottish Conservatives were able to bring the Right to Restoration Bill to Parliament. The landmark bill, which was tabled by Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross, received the support of 33 members, including Labor’s Monica Lennon and Jackie Baillie. The legislation would enshrine in law the right of everyone to receive the potentially life-saving treatment and support they need, including, where appropriate, residential rehabilitation.
The number of rehab beds available in Scotland has fallen while the number of people dying from alcohol and drugs is rising.
At the start of last year, the Scottish Tories secured £20million for residential rehabilitation schemes after repeated calls for more support for drug treatment schemes. This money is being used to replace historic cuts made by SNP ministers to these programs and alcohol and drug partnerships.
Reducing the number of people who die each year from drugs and alcohol in Edinburgh and Lothians will take a concerted effort by all. Wait times for drug and alcohol treatment in Lothian are longer than in other parts of Scotland, with one in five patients not being seen within the standard three-week waiting period. The continued underfunding of NHS Lothian is putting staff under more pressure and making it more difficult to deliver the same level of service as in other parts of Scotland.
Last month at Holyrood I called on SNP ministers to allocate funds specifically for alcohol-related services, in addition to those allocated to alcohol and drug partnerships for alcohol-related services dope.
In 2020, the number of people who died tragically from alcohol in Scotland rose by 17% to 1,190. It is unacceptable that there are currently no plans to introduce specific treatment targets to the alcohol until 2024.
SNP ministers must give alcohol and drug addiction the attention it needs to turn around this long-standing health crisis in Scotland.
Miles Briggs is a Scottish Conservative MSP for Lothian