A new report from the National Records of Scotland has shown that the number of people in Dumfries and Galloway dying from drug overdoses has reached record levels.
The latest figures show that in 2016 there were 17 deaths due to drug overdoses in Dumfries and Galloway compared to 11 in 2015 and five in 2006.
South of Scotland Labour MSP Colin Smyth, the Shadow Health Minister, said: “Dumfries and Galloway now has the highest number of drug-related deaths on record.
“These figures show the utter folly of the Scottish Government slashing alcohol and drug partnership funding at a time when drug deaths are hitting record levels.
“The Scottish Government needs to get a grip of this problem. If they continue in failing to properly fund vital drugs and alcohol support organisations then these deaths will continue to rise. I would urge the SNP Government to reverse these cuts as a matter of urgency”.
Conservative Galloway MSP Finlay Carson added: “These figures are nothing short of appalling. The more than 50% rise in the number of drug related deaths in Dumfries and Galloway is hugely concerning.
“I am meeting with NHS Dumfries and Galloway chiefs this week and will be discussing what steps can be taken to get this under control.
“People will be stunned that the death rate in Scotland is more than twice that of the rest of the UK, and that poses some extremely tough questions for the Scottish Government. For decades now we’ve had a drugs policy that simply parks people on methadone programmes, offering them zero hope of ever beating addiction completely.”
Aileen Campbell, Minister for Public Health said: “I would like to offer my sympathies to anyone affected by the loss of someone who has died as a result of drug use. We are dealing with a very complex problem in Scotland - a legacy of drugs misuse stretching back decades. What we are seeing is an ageing group of people who are long term drugs users. They have a pattern of addiction which is very difficult to break, and they have developed other chronic medical conditions as a result of this prolonged drugs use.
“Unfortunately, there is a general trend of increasing drug-related deaths across the UK.”