LATEST statistics have shown that there were 21 drug deaths in the Lothian and Borders area between July and September 2023 bringing the total so far this year to 50.

The Scottish Government has produced a quarterly report from Police Scotland’s management information to provide an indication of current trends in suspected substance-related deaths.

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And South Scotland MSP Colin Smyth say that action must be taken now to bolster support for drug rehabilitation and treatment.

He said: “This tragic news has revealed the human cost of over a decade of government failure to tackle Scotland’s drugs crisis.

“So far in 2023, the Lothian and Borders region has recorded 50 drug deaths – and that is 50 too many. We must not forget that these figures represent real people, with real families and friends who are mourning their loss.

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“The fact is that there is no silver bullet to bring down drugs deaths – what we need is a joined up approach that includes properly supported rehabilitation and treatment services.

“Delaying action to tackle drug deaths has fatal consequences – it is time for the government to wake up to the tragedy continuing to unfold on its watch and act to save lives.”

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Drug and alcohol policy minister Elena Whitham said: “Drug deaths in Scotland are still too high and every life lost is a tragedy.

“Through our national mission on drugs, I’m focused on supporting those affected by problem substance use, delivering real change on the ground and implementing evidence-based approaches to improve and save lives.

“As well as moves towards a safe drug consumption facility pilot in Glasgow, we’re taking a wide range of measures and national mission funds have now backed more than 300 grassroots projects.

“As the threat grows from the unexpected presence in the drug supply from highly potent synthetic opioids such as nitazenes which bring increased risk of overdose and death, we have also developed our surveillance abilities.

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“Our rapid action drug alerts and response reports and other measures play a vital part in providing an early warning of emerging drug trends.

“We’re also committed to delivering drug checking facilities which would also enable use to respond faster to these trends.”

Across the country there were an estimated 900 suspected drug deaths between January and September 2023.

The number of suspected drug deaths in the first nine months of the year increased by 13% – 103 people – compared with the same period of 2022.

Of these deaths, 645, or 72%, were males, up 16% from the 556 last year.

Figures also suggested that 66% were aged between 35 and 54.

There were 255 female suspected deaths – a rise of 6% compared with the 2022 estimate of 241.

There were 46 suspected deaths in the under-25 age group – 5% of all estimated lives lost and an increase of 7% from the previous year.