Scotland’s Health Secretary Humza Yousaf has said drug death statistics for last year will likely be “challenging”.
Scotland has suffered from the worst drug death rate in Europe, with the number of users dying rising in recent years.
The Scottish Government last year recognised there was a crisis, appointing Angela Constance as drugs minister to address the problem along with the already established drugs death taskforce, but reports this week have suggested the number is set to rise above the 1,264 lives claimed in 2019.
Nicola Sturgeon, who described the crisis as a “national disgrace”, also pledged £250 million over the course of this parliamentary term.
Speaking during the opening of a new eye centre at the Golden Jubilee Hospital in Clydebank, Mr Yousaf told the PA news agency: “I couldn’t pre-empt those statistics, it would be wrong of me to do so.
“But I suspect that we’ll see another challenging year.
“Scotland’s challenge around drug deaths, which is a national crisis, a national emergency – that’s why we call it our national mission to deal with our drugs death issue – is not going to be overcome within a short period of time.
“The new minister for drugs policy, Angela Constance, who reports directly to the First Minister, backed by that investment that we’re going to make over the parliamentary term, she’s already engaging with stakeholders, engaging with the UK Government where necessary to try to change the situation and improve it where we possibly can.
“But it will be, I’m sure, another set of challenging statistics.”
Even before the statistics have been published, seven leading drugs charities have announced their support for a Bill aimed at enshrining in law the right to the addiction treatment requested by the individual.
The draft legislation, put forward by the Scottish Conservatives would mean residential rehab requested by someone dealing with addiction and cleared by their doctor would have to be accepted, or a reason given with 24 hours of the refusal.
Services would also be put in place for the families of those struggling with addiction, under the Tory Bill.
On Thursday, a group led by Faces and Voices of Recovery (Favor) Scotland – who helped to draft the legislation – backed the proposals.
Favor was joined by the Maxie Richards Foundation, Jericho House, Phoenix Futures, Sisco, Abbey Care and Recovery Enterprises.
Favor chief executive, Annemarie Ward, said: “Behind Friday’s statistics, which we are sure will be as shocking as previous years, lie thousands of distraught families and communities in pieces.
“The drug crisis will be Scotland’s shame until the Government is brave enough to do what is necessary.
“Just now, the Scottish Government is not acting quickly enough to tackle the drug death crisis on our streets. They are doing just enough to limit the damage, not to solve the crisis.
“We have developed a Right to Recovery Bill that is about equality and justice for all. It should not be controversial to demand that everyone gets the treatment they need.”
According to Ms Ward, SNP MSPs have privately voiced their support for the proposals.
“The Right to Recovery Bill is necessary because, at the moment, the same leadership is presiding over this catastrophic tragedy who were in charge when drug deaths spiralled out of control,” she said.
“There is no desire for radical change, or even for accountability, in Scotland’s broken treatment system. Progress is far too slow.
“The Government’s new standards are not powerful enough to bring about the change we need to tackle this crisis. To save more lives, we need enforceable rights enshrined in law, so that nobody can be denied treatment again.”