SNP ministers are overseeing an "addictions crisis" amid concerns alcohol-related deaths are not being tackled with the same urgency as Scotland's record drug deaths.

A leading charity has called for a “proportionate response” to alcohol deaths, alongside drug-related fatalities.

The Scottish Government has launched a “national mission” to tackle Scotland having the worst drugs death rate in Europe – with £250 million of investment used to try and curb the trend.

In the latest released drug deaths figures , in 2020, Scotland recorded 1,339 drug deaths – but also tallied up 1,190 fatalities as a direct result of alcohol abuse in the same year.

READ MORE: Scotland records largest number of deaths due to alcohol since 2008

Ministers have been warned they risk being "complacent" without more action to curb both alcohol and drug deaths – with concerns raised that the focus on Scotland’s record-breaking break deaths is diverting attention from the number of people dying from alcohol harm, with 2020 recording the highest annual number since 2008.

SNP Public Health Minister Maree Todd has confirmed that alcohol treatment guidelines will be rolled out in a similar fashion to those available for medication-assisted treatment standards for drugs harm.

But she has been criticised after revealing the standards will not be established until 2024, with a warning issued this could be too late for some with an alcohol dependency.

HeraldScotland: Scotland's alcohol-related deaths (Picture: NRS)Scotland's alcohol-related deaths (Picture: NRS)

Conservative MSP Miles Briggs has hit out at the “complacent” strategy by the Scottish Government.

He said: “When SNP ministers acknowledge they took their eye off the ball on drug deaths, I think arguably it feels like they have taken their eye off the ball and continue to on alcohol deaths.

“Treatment standards are key to this. If we’re not going to set any then heath boards and drug and alcohol partnerships are not going to end up feeling they’ve not really got to really act on this.

READ MORE: Scotland's record number of drug deaths 'still far too high' despite slight improvement

“Anecdotally speaking to drugs and alcohol partnerships, they are being pressured to get on and reach out to people with drug addiction issues. That is diverting fragile often vulnerable resources into that work on alcohol.”

The Lothians MSP acknowledged that services for drug and alcohol misuse “often go hand in hand”, but warned that “there are people with just alcohol addiction issues who are therefore at the back of the queue”.

Mr Briggs said: “We know waiting times are awful, we know often people who do have alcohol issues, it's often late presentation when they are coming forward due to the nature of it when people present with liver failure rather than a preventative model.

“Unless there's going to be treatment standards, unless there's going to be finance behind it, we're not going to make much progress.

“It actually points to an addictions crisis – not just with substance misuse and needle injection of drugs, but across the board.

“Just because drug deaths are so shockingly bad, that doesn't mean that should be the only focus.”

Mr Briggs said that “a different model” of providing services is needed, potentially seeing third sector organisations “step up”.

But he warned “it will come down to funding and it will come down to standards”.

He said: “We probably don’t properly understand the pandemic impact on this yet. If you became addicted to alcohol during the pandemic, they are maybe not even showing up at this moment in time for the damage being caused.

READ MORE: Scotland's drug deaths: 1,339 Scots died in 2020 after drugs misuse

“It’s sometimes years before you see the impact – it could be a decade.”

A charity has called for proper investment in alcohol services as well as a focus on prevention.

Alison Douglas, chief executive of Alcohol Focus Scotland, said: “Who among us hasn’t known someone who has had their live damaged or lost because of alcohol?

“Before the pandemic almost one in 15 of all deaths in Scotland were caused by alcohol. Yet, it is accepted and promoted as an everyday product leaving us blinkered to the reality of the high levels of harm it causes.

“The recent focus and effort on the drugs crisis is welcome and much needed, but we also need to see a proportionate response to alcohol. The Scottish Government have taken bold action in the past – their recognition that alcohol is a public health emergency demands they renew their efforts.”

She added: “We need real investment in accessible, recovery-oriented alcohol services to ensure people get the right support when they need it, wherever they live."

“In addition, preventive measures are required including increasing the minimum unit price to at least 65p, putting restrictions on the heavy promotion of alcohol and reducing how easily available it is in our communities.”

Scottish Labour health spokesman Paul O’Kane said: “We know that the pandemic resulted in a rise of alcohol deaths in Scotland- these stats show that this heart-breaking trend is not stopping.

“The SNP has taken its eye off the ball and allowed cuts to drug and alcohol beds.

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"It is also failing to provide adequate financial resource to key services – including alcohol and drugs partnerships – to deliver more focused support around alcohol consumption.

"This is unacceptable. We need to put tackling problem drinking at the heart of our recovery from the pandemic.”

The Public Health Secretary said that both drugs and alcohol deaths remain a priority.

Ms Todd said: "Alcohol and drug-related harms are important public health issues in Scotland, which is why we established a national mission to improve and save lives. At the core of which is ensuring that every individual is able to access the treatment and recovery they choose.

"We are working to ensure people with alcohol use disorder continue to receive the same quality of care as those with drugs misuse. The forthcoming alcohol treatment guidelines will provide support for alcohol treatment, similar to the medication-assisted treatment standards for drugs. We are also developing alcohol treatment targets alongside Stage Two of the Drugs Targets Implementation in 2024."