Medics have called for urgent action to halt Scotland's drug crisis after figures revealed an "alarming" increase in drug-related A&E attendances. 

A total of 1,081 people were seen in Scotland’s emergency departments due to drugs between March and May this year, an increase of 13% compared to the same three-month period in 2022.

This was slightly higher than the 1,058 drug-related attendances reported in March-May 2021. 

The Herald:

There were also 100 suspected drug deaths per month on average between March and May, similar to the 102 per month for the same period in 2022.

Suspected drug deaths are based on provisional reports from Police Scotland.

The statistics are collected by Public Health Scotland as part of its quarterly RADAR (Rapid Action Drug Alerts and Response) reports.

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Dr Susanna Galea-Singer, chair of the addictions faculty at the Royal College of Psychiatrists in Scotland, said: “Once again these alarming statistics prove that urgent action is needed now, to halt the drug crisis in Scotland.

“While there is some room for optimism in that drug deaths have stagnated - the fact remains - there are hundreds of people really struggling with addiction and mental health issues.”

The Herald:

The RADAR report also shows that the number of acute hospital admissions caused by drugs fell to 1,654 between January and March, which PHS said was "considerably lower than expected". 

During the same time periods in 2022 and 2021, there were 2,136 and 3,040 admissions respectively. 

PHS said the reason for the decrease is “being investigated” and cautioned that it "should not be interpreted as a reduction in harms”.

The RADAR report added: “The number of hospital admissions may be affected by issues accessing urgent care services and by the capacity of hospital services.”

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A Scottish Government spokesman said: “The drug death rate in Scotland remains unacceptably high and every loss of life is a tragedy.

“While we can be cautiously encouraged by an overall stabilisation in the number of suspected drug deaths, we must not draw too many conclusions from this headline data alone.

“This work is part of a wider surveillance approach being undertaken by Public Health Scotland.

“We are focused on supporting those affected by problem substance use, delivering real change on the ground, implementing evidence-based approaches we know can help save lives and ensuring people are getting the treatment that is right for them.

“We are committed to putting people with lived and living experience at the heart of our National Mission which is supported by £250 million over the course of this Parliament.”

The Herald:

Scottish Tory health spokesman Dr Sandesh Gulhane said the figures were “deeply alarming”, adding: “The sharp rise in the number of drug-related attendances at A&E is a terrifying indicator of the scale of the problem – as well as adding to the strain on Scotland’s already overwhelmed emergency wards.”

Dr Gulhane went on to urge the Scottish Government to “stop dithering” and back a Scottish Tory Bill aimed at enshrining in law the right to recovery.

Scottish Labour deputy leader Dame Jackie Baillie said: “This eye-opening report is a tragic reminder of how much work still needs to be done to prevent drug deaths in Scotland.

“It has been years since the Scottish Government declared a public health emergency – but progress has been far too slow and far too many lives are still being lost to drugs.”

Scottish Lib Dem leader Alex Cole-Hamilton claimed the Government was “still woefully behind the curve” on drug deaths.

He said: “My party has been calling for the decriminalisation of drug misuse for years.

“If the Scottish Government is at last serious about reform in this area, this will take detailed work both here in Scotland and in partnership with colleagues across the UK and beyond.”