Falkirk Council area drug-related deaths at all-time high

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The number of drug-related deaths in the Falkirk Council area has spiralled in 12 months.

Latest figures show that in 2018 there were 43 deaths where drugs played a part compared to 16 in 2017.

Across Forth Valley there were 72 deaths, double the number from the previous year.

The figures announced on Tuesday by the National Records for Scotland also revealed the country’s drug death rate is now nearly three times that of the UK as a whole, and is higher than that reported for any other EU country.

Falkirk Council’s leader, Councillor Cecil Meikllejohn said the figures were a “national tragedy” and said the local authority is working with partners to develop an action plan to stem the tide of deaths.

Meanwhile, Angus MacDonald, Falkirk East MSP, said the statistics were a reminder of the “heart-breaking reality” of the impact of drugs in Scotland. He welcomed the new Drug Death Taskforce recently set up by the Scottish Government which will advise on what further changes, in practice or in law, could help save lives and reduce harm.

The largest number of deaths in Falkirk came in the 25-34 age group, while in Forth Valley it was amongst 35-44 year olds.

However, the death rate of 0.14 deaths per 1000 population in Falkirk is slightly below the national average of 0.16.

The greatest number of deaths was in Greater Glasgow and Clyde at 0.23 followed by Tayside and Ayrshire and Arran at 0.18 and 0.17 per 1000 respectively.

Commenting on the figures Councillor Meiklejohn said: “Any drug related death is regrettable and these statistics show just how much this is a national tragedy.

“We held a summit with our community planning partners to look at the challenges specific to the Falkirk Council area which had the aim of developing a clear action plan with some specific interventions that all our partners can sign up to.

“This will have a positive effect on reducing drug related deaths and near misses in the Falkirk area.”

Mr MacDonald called on the Westminster Government to take action – the misuse of drugs is not an issue devolved to Holyrood.

He said: “Clearly the figures released today show the heart-breaking reality of the issue of drugs in Scotland – an issue that is an emergency that has to be dealt with urgently.

“This unprecedented rise in drug-related deaths in Falkirk district, and across Scotland, is a clear concern and, although work continues to try to tackle the issue here in Scotland, with the establishment of a Drug Death Taskforce, chaired by Professor Catriona Matheson of the University of Stirling, the Home Office need to sit up and take notice that their policies on drug misuse are failing, and their ignorance is contributing to the rise in these figures.

“Supervised Drug Consumption Facilities – as part of a wider programme of measures – to tackle the problem, has had positive results in other countries throughout the world. Yet the Home Office and the UK Government have shamefully refused to entertain these plans for Scotland and has instead chosen to continue with outdated and failed policies rather than protect and save lives – which is truly unforgivable.

“These figures should be a clarion call to the UK Government – lives are being needlessly lost in Falkirk district, the Forth Valley and across Scotland, and they should work with us to help save them.”

A spokeswoman for NHS Forth Valley said: “Reducing the number of deaths from drugs is a key priority for the Forth Valley Alcohol and Drug Partnership.

“The Partnership, which brings together a number of organisations including Police Scotland, local councils and health services, provides a wide range of services and support to those at risk.

“Work is underway to review the causes of recent deaths and develop plans to prevent future deaths, wherever possible.”