Scotland drug deaths: Falkirk councillor calls for addiction rehabilitation centre
A Falkirk councillor and anti-drugs campaigner has called for the creation of a national centre for addiction rehabilitation, as drug deaths in the area and across Scotland hit a new high.
Drugs deaths in the Forth Valley health board rose to 77 last year – an increase of two on the 2019 figures, which were the highest in over a decade.
And nationally more than 1,300 people died of drug misuse – the seventh year in a row that Scotland has seen a record number of deaths.
The figures from the National Records of Scotland showed almost three-quarters of the local deaths involved ‘street valium’, which also accounted for 60 per cent of deaths nationally.
Some of these are prescription drugs such as diazepam and valium but most are Benzodiazepines sold as illegal drugs, or ‘benzos’ – and their usage is thought to be a major factor in Scotland’s high death rates.
This time last year, the soaring number of drug deaths across Scotland – more than three-and-a-half times higher than the rest of the UK – sparked fury, and First Minister Nicola Sturgeon promised £250 million of investment to address the problem.
This financial year Falkirk Alcohol and Drugs Partnerships was given £96,294 to help increase residential rehabilitation and improve access to treatment.
The funding, however, has not yet made an impact on the statistics and National Records of Scotland figures show there were 1,339 deaths in Scotland in 2020, an increase of 5% on 2019 and the highest figure on record.
The Labour group leader on Falkirk Council, Robert Bissett, a long-standing anti-drugs campaigner, said: “The devastating effect one death has on a family should be enough to see action, yet every year we hear voices of sorrow and regret and yet nothing changes.
“In my view we need a Scottish centre of excellence for all addictions, a place where someone can drop in 24/7 and get the help they need – be that rehabilitation counselling, psychiatric or psychological help and support must be given for families.
“This would require significant investment but the return would be worth it.
“If you can get one addict off drugs the saving to society is significant.”
Angela Constance – who was appointed into the new position of Drugs Policy Minister in January – said that the national situation was “heart-breaking”.
She said: “We are working hard to get more people into the treatment that works for them as quickly as possible.”
Of the 77 deaths in Forth Valley, 56 – 73 per cent – involved Etizolam, or ‘street valium’. That was a higher rate than the national average, where 60 per cent of deaths involved the drug.
The number of deaths involving codeine was also high in Forth Valley with 10 of the 77 deaths involving the drug.
Prescription drugs were implicated in 16 per cent of all drug-related deaths nationally and Forth Valley’s figures were in line with this.
Patricia Cassidy, Chief Officer of Falkirk Health and Social Care Partnership said: “These tragic statistics underline our focus to reach as many people in need of support as possible, our local support is provided through the Forth Valley Alcohol and Drug Partnership
“A wide range of drug and alcohol treatment services are available for people in Forth Valley. This includes one-to-one and group support, counselling and community rehabilitation in Falkirk, Stirling and Alloa.
“Outreach services also work with people in local communities to reduce harm caused by drug and alcohol use, increase the distribution of naloxone kits and provide naloxone training which can help save lives.
“We would urge anyone concerned about drug or alcohol issues to contact 0808 196 2188 or visit www.changegrowlive.org for information and advice.”