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90% of medication-assisted drug treatment standards implemented, figures show

The report was released on Tuesday (Paul Faith/PA)
The report was released on Tuesday (Paul Faith/PA)

The Scottish Government’s medication-assisted treatment (Mat) standards on drugs have been implemented in at least 90% of cases, new figures show.

A report produced by Public Health Scotland found that 90% of the first five of the 10 targets – based mainly around the administering of drug replacement treatment – have been fully met in Scotland’s 29 alcohol and drug partnerships (ADPs).

Scotland has been in the throes of a drug deaths crisis in recent years. Figures have improved from the record high of 1,330 in 2021, but 1,051 people still lost their lives to drugs in 2022, the most recent year for which figures are available.

Stemming from a recommendation of the drug deaths task force set up to tackle the issue, the standards are used to gauge the effectiveness of Mat, which also provides “psychological and social support” as well as pharmacological help.

Christina McKelvie
The drugs minister said she was ‘grateful’ to those in the sector (Fraser Bremner/Daily Mail/PA)

The first standard looks at the access of those struggling with addiction to access a Mat assessment – with a target for 75% to do so within one day of seeking help.

In 24 of the 29 ADPs, the target was met.

Another key pillar of the MAT standards was to allow service users the informed choice over the medications they were given.

In 28 out of 29 ADPs, the target is considered to have been met, with patients being provided the full range of medications and a 10% drop in the use of methadone between 2022 and 2024, as well as an increase in the longer lasting injection of buprenorphine, suggesting improvement.

Other targets include identifying those most in need of treatment, offering advice on harm reduction and ensuring users can remain in treatment for as long as they require.

All of which achieved a full implementation of at least 86%.

The remaining five standards, which look mainly at the mental and psychological impacts of problem drug use, are “very complex and difficult to measure”, according to Public Health Scotland.

As such, it was agreed it would be too difficult to consider the standards to be fully implemented, but 91%, the report shows, were considered to be provisionally implemented.

Drugs minister Christina McKelvie said she was “grateful” to those working in the sector, but warned Scotland’s response to the drug death crisis still faced “challenges”.

“We will continue to build on this, striving to reduce deaths and improve lives – however, clearly there are still challenges to overcome, including the threat from super-strong synthetic drugs and polydrug use,” the minister said during a visit to a treatment service in Fife.

“I have met people and families who have seen significant change in services, as a result of this progress, but there are still some who do not have access to care and support on the day they ask for help.

“We will take on board the feedback and recommendations.

“We have already supported the National Collaborative to publish a draft Charter of Rights and will continue to work with partners and local leaders to seek further improvements.

“We made a record £112 million available to ADPs in 2024-25 and services such as Fife ADP’s multi-agency rapid access clinic at Cameron Hospital, supported by third-sector partners, are key to driving this forward.”