15 Jul Scotland on the brink of becoming the drug death capital of the world as grim figures soar
Scotland is on the brink of being declared the worst drug death country in the developed world.
Official statistics to be released tomorrow are expected to show more people die from overdoses than even America, where killer fentanyl and other deadly opioids have run rife in recent years.
The US’s most recent death count by the Centres for Disease Control showed 21.7 lives per per 100,000 were claimed by drugs in 2017.
Scotland would equal that mark if the National Records of Scotland data of drug deaths hits 1180 deaths for the latest recorded year.
Scotland’s public health minister Joe FitzPatrick last week told the Scottish Affairs Committee at Westminster that he fears the tally could be as high as 1200.
That horrendous total would mark an increase of almost 30 per cent – a barely believable jump for a nation that is already, by miles, the worst drugs nation in Europe.
Scotland’s biggest challenge is tackling the polydrug habits that see many long-term addicts mix heroin and methadone with alcohol, prescription pills and street drugs that are often manufactured by criminal gangs in makeshift Scottish drugs factories by
Campaigner Martin Powell, of Transform, which seeks to decriminalise drugs, said it is astonishing that Scotland’s death toll could overtake that of the US, given the way fentanyl has dramatically driven their numbers upwards.
He said: “The US is suffering a drug death crisis – driven by opioids including fentanyl – that has made headlines around the world, and caused political uproar for its severity.
“And rightly so, as 70,000 drug deaths a year is a catastrophe.
“It means that for every 100,000 Americans, 21.7 died from drugs in 2017.
“That is the highest drug death rate in the developed world, where the numbers are counted, and possibly anywhere.
“And yet, right here in Scotland, when the number of drug deaths for 2018 is announced, if they have passed the 1180 mark, it will mean this country has beaten that US drug death rate.
“Over 21.7 Scots will have died from drugs per 100,000 of our population.
“And given last week Drugs Minister Joe FitzPatrick said as many as 1200 may have died, that is a very real possibility.
“Last year, Scotland reconfirmed its position as the drug death capital of Europe.
“Tomorrow, it could take the darkest of crowns as the drug death capital of the developed world.”
Powell said the UK Government must take heed of the extent of this emergency, which has been highlighted during a Daily Record campaign in recent months.
He said: “This cannot be allowed to stand. All politicians must stop playing politics with people’s lives.
“This shameful and entirely avoidable crisis demands that the UK Government calls it what it is – a public health emergency.
“And the Scottish Government must implement emergency measures, while developing a long-term strategy.
“If drug deaths can more than double in five years, that strategy should aim to at least halve them in the same time.
“But politicians must act now, as I am hearing from people on the ground that already this year, things are worse than 2018.
“The Record has written extensively about Drug Consumption Rooms and Portuguese style decriminalisation.
“That is what we must be talking about on a UK level and a pilot scheme in Glasgow would be a very appropriate trial for such schemes.”
America’s opioid epidemic has driven total drug overdose deaths to record numbers – with overdose deaths hitting 70,000 in 2017 – that tally amounted to more lives claimed by guns, car crashes, or HIV/AIDS in any single year in US history.
The US opioid crisis took off in the country in the late 1990s – as pharmaceutical marketing and lobbying led doctors to prescribe far more opioid painkillers, and misuse and addiction rose.
A second wave of drug overdoses began in the 2000s when heroin flooded the illicit market, as drug dealers took advantage of a new population of people who used opioids but either lost access to painkillers or simply sought a better, cheaper high.
Then came a third wave of overdoses, as illicit fentanyl, a synthetic opioid, started to supplant heroin in the
Overdose rates went through the roof, as fentanyls are generally more potent than heroin or other traditionally opioids.
The extent of Scotland’s drugs crisis has tended to go under the radar in international league trebles as our deaths are measured as part of the UK as a whole.
But Scotland’s death rate is heading towards being three times as bad as the rest of the UK’s.