The independent chair of the Dundee Drugs and Alcohol partnership, Simon Little, has welcomed progress showing a fall in the number of substance deaths in the city.
But in a rallying call for progress to continue, Simon Little said 56 deaths linked to drugs were still too many.
Speaking to The Courier after the latest figures were released on Friday, Mr Little said he hoped the fall was an early sign of sustained progress.
He also commended the city-wide approach to tackling the crisis, which previously saw Dundee listed as the drug’s death capital of Scotland.
Mr Little said it was important the political will to tackle the crisis continued even as we see progress.
“One year is just one year, it’s about year-on-year improvement. We won’t be happy if this is just a blip.
“To get momentum to tackle this, we have to bear down across the piece on everything that will make a difference,” he said.
Mr Little said a holistic approach was necessary, with no silver bullet available in Dundee or elsewhere in Scotland.
He added: “We need to work across the whole system of care, tackling the long-term drivers that lead people to have traumatic experiences that may lead them to use substances.
“There’s a lot of work to be done to bear down on many areas to cut the number of people dying from drugs, but also cut the prevalence of substance use.
“It’s a long-term job.”
Dundee deaths fall
The city fell to third place in the grim league table based on the number of deaths in 2020, with 38.30 drug deaths per 100,000 people.
This was down from 48.22 in 2019, then the highest rate of death per population size in Scotland.
But across Scotland, the number of deaths continues to rise, with the rate of drugs deaths in the country over 3½ times that for the UK as a whole.
Simon Little said hard work and partnership working in Dundee had helped, with everyone committed to understanding the city’s issues.
It’s too early to pat ourselves on the back, but this is progress
“In the last couple of years we have seen a city-wide mission,” he said, admitting it made him very emotional.
“We are pulling together, Dundee has faced up to its challenges. It has to grapple with its own circumstances.
“It’s too early to pat ourselves on the back, but this is progress.”
Also responding to the latest figures, city council leader John Alexander repeated the shared commitment to tackle the crisis.
He added: “Every one of these deaths is a person and a life, not a statistic. They leave behind grieving families and mourning friends.
“That is why we are determined to make a difference.
“Through the establishment of the original Dundee Drugs Commission and our shared city response through the Action Plan for Change, we are making interventions to improve lives and prevent needless deaths.”
Cllr Alexander praised “pioneering initiatives” like the integrated substance use and mental health response, which will include evening and weekend crisis interventions.
As well as this he commended the increased availability to the lifesaving drug Nalaxone, an emergency antidote to opiate overdoses.
Cllr Alexander added: “I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who is involved in this effort as their contribution is vital to help achieve our shared aims.
“While our actions are already making a difference, but we have to remember that this is a long-term strategy to try and solve problems which have been with us for generations.
“There is still much to do, and we will work closely with the Dundee Drugs Commission as it reviews the progress we have achieved in meeting their recommendations.
“I would like to emphasise that recovery is an important component of our action plan and I am optimistic that we will be calling Dundee a City of Recovery in the future.”