The number of sites where drug users can pick up clean needles has fallen by nearly a quarter in Tayside, new figures show.
That is despite the area being home to Europe’s drugs death capital Dundee, which reported an increase of drug narcotic-related fatalities from 38 to 57 last year.
The Scottish Liberal Democrats warned against any reduction in the distribution of drugs paraphernalia designed to save lives.
There were 20 injecting equipment provision (IEP) outlets in Tayside in 2016/17, according to Scottish Government figures published on Tuesday.
That compares with 26 in the previous year. The number of the distribution centres has increased from 14 in 2007/08.
There are 23 of the facilities in Fife for the third year in a row.
Alex Cole-Hamilton, the Lib Dem MSP said: “The number of drug deaths in the region has been a dark stain on Tayside.
“If we are to reduce blood borne infections these sites are absolutely essential and it seems astonishing that the number of outlets is being allowed to decrease.”
Free drug paraphernalia is handed out to avoid addicts sharing needles, for example, which exposes them to blood borne virus infections such as HIV and Hepatitis C.
As well as syringes, users can pick up spoons and citric acid for the sterile cooking of drugs and wipes to safely prepare the skin for injection.
There were 22,533 visits to the outlets in Tayside in 2016/17, compared with 25,858 in the previous year
Fife recorded 19,639 attendances in 2016/17, down on the 21,149 in 2015/16.
Donna Thai, from NHS Tayside, said they “currently reviewing delivery of harm reduction services, including provision of injecting equipment, to ensure we meet the needs of our population”.
“The reduction in the number of IEP sites is in part due to changes in the way the service is delivered,” she said.
“The specialist harm reduction nursing team now operate across IEP sites in Tayside, rather than being permanently based out of specific locations.
“In addition, changes in the way a voluntary sector organisation deliver services in Dundee also affected the number of sites.”
Ms Thai admitted the distribution of needs and syringes to injecting drug users in Tayside is “well below” the target as set by the World Health Organisation.”