Clinicians respond to record drug-related deaths data for Scotland

  • Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh

  • Priscilla Lynch
  • UK Professional News
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The Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh (RCPE) has outlined a number of urgent recommendations following the latest National Records of Scotland’s (NRS) data on drug related deaths in Scotland.

The NRS revealed that the number of drug-related deaths in Scotland increased by 6%, from 1,187 in 2018 to 1,264 in 2019, representing the highest number since records began in 1996. Scotland’s drug-death rate was higher than those reported for all the EU countries, and was approximately 3.5 times that of the UK as a whole.

Prof Angela Thomas, acting President of the RCPE, described the figures as “concerning and absolutely heartbreaking”.

"This is a public health emergency, which requires a collaborative approach between government, public health agencies, political parties and the clinicians who are dealing with the crisis on the front line.

“Although the issue of drug related deaths has been around for decades, there is an immediacy which must be addressed now, without further delay.”

The College held a conference on the issue in October, with a report due early next year.

It is vital that clinicians are included in the national conversation about how we can treat people who use drugs and prevent as many drug related deaths as possible.

The College believes that some key interventions can be taken now including the introduction of a drugs consumption room, and a heroin assisted treatment programme in all major centres in Scotland as we see already in Glasgow. This could be particularly useful, as the 2019 statistics indicate that heroin continues to be a heavy cause of drug related deaths in Scotland," Prof Thomas said.

The College al so supports targeted administration of naloxone, tackling of socio-economic equalities, and has called for action to tackle stigmatisation of people who use drugs – “something we note that the Drug Deaths Taskforce is looking at”.