Shock rise in drug deaths

from the Falkirk Herald, 14 August 2008

SHOCK new figures reveal drug deaths in the Falkirk area are spiralling.
Last year, 15 lives were lost, a rise of 50 per cent on the previous 12 months.

Despite high-profile operations by Central Scotland Police to crack down on dealers – £2 million-worth of drugs were taken off the streets in 2007-08 – the human cost of addiction continues to rise.

Now an MSP has called for everyone to work together to tackle the problem.

Cathy Peattie said: “There has to be a joined up approach across all services if we are going to do something about this.

“And let’s be quite clear, it isn’t just affecting one group, it’s all sections of society which are affected. It’s a terrible situation and we need to do something now.”

The grim statistics were revealed in a report by the Registrar General for Scotland which analysed drug-related deaths across the country.

Across Scotland there were 455 deaths through drugs in 2007, an eight per cent rise on the previous year and 103 per cent more than in 1997.

Forth Valley had one of the highest increases in deaths through drug misuse.

Last year, there were 26 fatalities, a rise of two from 2006 but compared to just four in 1997.

The Falkirk Council figures show deaths had been rising steadily from 2003 but jumped from 10 to 15 last year. A decade ago there were no drug-related deaths in this area.

Eight people died after taking heroin or morphine, two from methadone, three from diazepam and six through alcohol abuse.

Admitting drugs remain readily available in communities, Central Scotland Police chief constable Andrew Cameron said his officers had worked hard to dismantle and disrupt supply networks.

Highlighting the £2 million of seizures, he paid tribute to communities “which have decided they will not tolerate this activity on their doorsteps and have given information which has led to this quite incredible quantity of drugs being taken out of circulation”.

Mr Cameron said: “We arrest drug dealers and work with partners to really try and raise awareness of the dangers of drugs. We are keen to ensure that young people make choices around this issue and are fully aware of the devastating impact it can have on family life.”

The Falkirk East MSP also stressed that drugs don’t just affect those misusing the substances but also their family and friends.

Mrs Peattie said: “It’s heartbreaking to listen to parents tell of how they’ve tried to get support because they’re desperate to do whatever they can for their bairns.

“These figures clearly show drug deaths are on the increase. The police are doing a smashing job tackling the dealers but we need to do more to ensure that no more young people’s lives are lost or wasted.

“We need all agencies working together to tackle this. The time people are having to wait for treatment and follow-up support – which needs to be longer than a couple of months – is currently too long. Those at risk need to be identified and action taken much quicker if we are to get results and drive down these figures.”

The local authority is also involved in the war on drugs. Fiona Campbell, head of policy and performance review, said: “Substance misuse can have devastating consequences resulting in real tragedy for families involved.

“Falkirk Council looks to ensure the delivery of services for substance misusers and their families by our leading role in the Falkirk
Substance Action Team. This includes the provision of a tiered approach from basic information and education to intensive rehabilitation therapy.

“Addressing the issues of substance misuse is a priority for elected members and the council.”


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