Ministers have been told staff working to help people fight drugs misuse are facing "high levels of pressure and risk of burnout".

The warning was made in a survey carried out by Public Health Scotland (PHS) of 553 frontline workers who support people trying to tackle their own alcohol and drug abuse.

Scotland has the worst drug death rate in the UK and the rest of Europe and a national mission to reduce the number of people dying from misuse is a top priority for the Scottish Government.

But the research carried by PHS found that 43% of staff working in the field felt at risk of burnout "a lot of the time or all the time". It also found that only 51% agreed they get the time to do their job well.

READ MORE: Suspected drug deaths in Scotland increase by 17 per cent

In May, the Scottish Government announced that residential rehabilitation projects would be among the initiatives to tackle the drug death crisis which will receive a share of £3.6 million.

Drugs and alcohol policy minister Christina McKelvie announced that 14 projects which help recovery have been awarded funding.

They included £1 million for four new residential rehabilitation projects which will allow the facilities to hire staff to provide more in-depth support to people as they transition from rehab and a new recovery house for women.

Ms McKelvie said the investment was supporting the Scottish Government's targets to increase the number of statutory funded placements per year to 1,000 by 2026.

READ MORE: Scotland's drug deaths crisis is rooted in economic factors

The most up-to-date figures published by PHS showed 477 placements were funded between April 1 and September 30 2023.

The funding was announced after the Scottish Government was last year accused of presiding over a "shameful" £19m cut to alcohol and drug recovery services in Scotland.

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Alex Cole-Hamilton today warned that the SNP Government's real-terms cuts to the drugs budget are undermining services and risk worsening Scotland's drug deaths emergency.

“Scotland has by far the worst drug death emergency in Europe. One hundred people a month are dying and every one is a life cut short and a family torn apart by grief," he said.

“This in-depth survey shows staff warning the government that they are at risk of burnout. They want to do the best job they can and, crucially, save lives. However, they are going without the support they need because the government hasn't got their back.

"It is unforgiveable that the SNP have inflicted a real-terms cut to drug services at the very moment we learned deaths increased 10% last year.

“Enough is enough. Scottish Liberal Democrats would end the SNP's cuts and implement long-overdue measures including drug checking, safer consumption facilities and Portuguese-style drug commissions.

"We would also ensure our governments finally work together to end the drug deaths emergency, including looking at devolving specific powers around the Misuse of Drugs Act where tailored solutions are needed."

The latest figures from the Scottish Government, published in March this year, show that during 2023 there were 1,197 suspected drug deaths, 10% (105) more than during 2022.

The report for 2023 said 875 men died of suspected drug misuse (73%), an increase of 14% (108) compared to 2022, when there were 767 such deaths, while 322 women died of suspected drug misuse (27%), a decrease of 1% (3) compared to 2022 when there were 325 such deaths.

A majority (66%) of suspected drug deaths were of people aged between 35 and 54 which was broadly in line with previous periods.

The police divisions with the greatest number of suspected drug deaths were Greater Glasgow (303), Lanarkshire (147) and Edinburgh City (118).

PHS's RADAR team, which provides an 'early warning' alert system for drug use trends, found opiates and benzodiazepines, which decrease anxiety and slow the central nervous system, were the two most detected drugs in toxicology reports from 2023 - often in conjunction with each other, which amplifies the effects of the drugs and suppresses breathing.

They also identified an upward trend in the use of synthetic opioids.

Responding to Mr Cole-Hamilton's comments drugs and alcohol policy minister Christina McKelvie said: “We value every member of the drug and alcohol services workforce and their wellbeing remains a top priority.

“Despite some challenging findings, this report shows that 70% of staff felt supported and 75% get the training they need to do their job well.

“We recognise current challenges to recruitment and retention and we are working urgently to address this.”

The Scottish Government is also funding a £7m three year pilot consumption room for illegal drugs including heroin and cocaine as a way to tackle the country's drugs deaths crisis.

The scheme, approved by the authorities last year, will be based at a health centre in the east end of Glasgow and is due to be launched this summer. It will see users take their own drugs under the supervision of trained health professionals.