Continued rise in Tayside drug deaths

Mental health support & targeted early interventions recommended as drug deaths still ‘considerable’ concern

Monday 17th June 2019

The number of drug deaths in Tayside continues to rise and remains a considerable public health concern, according to a report released today.

Appropriate mental health support and acting on opportunities for targeted early intervention to reduce the risk of future drug deaths are among the recommendations included in the Drug Deaths in Tayside 2018 annual report.

In 2018, there were a total of 78 confirmed drug deaths in Tayside, with 53 occurring in Dundee.

Drug deaths affect people who have experienced significant life adversity.

The statistics also show fatalities are more likely to occur in the most deprived areas, to affect people with poor mental health and frequently involve multiple substances.

The evidence and recommendations will inform the work of the alcohol and drug partnerships (ADPs) in Angus, Dundee and Perth and Kinross.

Recommendations include ensuring that people with problematic drug use are provided with appropriate mental health support if needed, in addition to managing substance use concerns.

The report also recommends more work on non-fatal overdoses to reduce risk of future drug deaths.

Dr Emma Fletcher, chair of the Tayside Drug Death Review Group and consultant in public health medicine, said:

“Our sympathies are with all of the families that are affected by the tragedy of a death resulting from drug use.

“Substance misuse is a major public health concern and remains a priority for NHS Tayside and the three ADPs in the Tayside area.

“The report shows that the majority of drug deaths occur in people who have experienced considerable life adversity, often from a young age. Problematic drug use is rarely an independent choice by an individual but the result of complex social, economic and health factors.

“The number of drug deaths is increasing nationally and globally and therefore altering this trend locally is extremely challenging. 

“However, organisations in Tayside have strengths and expertise to further develop plans in light of these recommendations to reduce the risk of people dying as a result of drug use in future.

“Naloxone is effective at reversing the effects of opioids such as morphine, heroin, codeine and methadone and the naloxone programme is being extended and organisations within the third sector can now offer kits and provide training.

“However, this report shows a concerning trend in the increase of certain drugs such as pregabalin, etizolam and cocaine present at the time of death, in addition to opioids.

“People are advised not to take a mix of substances and make sure that someone else is around to call for help if it is required.

“All organisations and agencies, both locally and nationally, have to work together as a priority with people, families and communities affected to halt this current trend and reduce the incidence of drug deaths in future. 

“People should not be dying as a result of drug use and in Tayside we are committed to seeing these current trends changed.”