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More than 5,000 accident and emergency admissions in Tayside due to drug overdoses

Ninewells Hospital, Dundee.
Ninewells Hospital, Dundee.

More than 5,000 people have attended accident and emergency departments in Tayside hospitals after taking illegal drugs.

Figures obtained by The Courier through Freedom of Information legislation revealed that since 2012/12 there have been 3,669 patients presenting at Ninewells Hospital in Dundee and 1,336 at Perth Royal Infirmary.

In over 2,000 cases, patients had taken a cocktail of drugs.

Opioids, heroin and methadone overdoses were responsible for 603 cases between 2012/13 and last year.

The figures also revealed there had been hundreds of patients turning up at A&E after overdosing on prescription medicines like benzodiazpine, the family of drugs that includes Valium, and anti-depressants called tricyclics.

There have been 486 overdoses of benzodiazapines and 128 tricyclic overdoses.

Dave Barrie of Dundee drug charity Addaction said users in Dundee regularly mixed opiates and black market benzodiazipines with potentially fatal consequences.

He said: “The majority of drug deaths have involved two or more substances, particularly opiates and the Valium group.

“They are both central nervous system depressants, so your breathing and heart slow down.

“Eventually your breathing will stop and your heart will stop.”

Mr Barrie added: “People are buying them online or on the black market so the strength will change from day to day, as will the strength or purity of heroin.

“There is a degree of Russian Roulette.”

There were 326 cases were people had overdose on new psychoactive substances – so-called legal highs.

The figures also show reveal that the number of patients attending A&E in Dundee after overdosing reached a five-year high last year while it fell to a five-year low in Perth.

There were 803 attendances because of drugs at Ninewells hospital in 2016/17 up from 613 in 2012/13.

Conversely, at Perth Royal Infirmary the number of attendances fell to 236 last year, from a peak of 295 in 2014/15.

Mr Barrie said drugs charities, NHS Tayside and other parties are all working together to “attract people into treatment” and reduce the toll of drugs deaths.

There were 36 drug-related deaths in Dundee in 2015. The city has the highest drug-related death rate in the country.

There were 647 cases where it is not known what drug was involved in the overdose.

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