Number of drug-related deaths in Fife doubles in a decade

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Drug-related deaths in Fife have doubled over the last ten years, according to official statistics.

While drug-related deaths fell in 2018 to 64, down from 66 the year before, it was double the number of deaths in 2009. The figure has slowly risen since then, hitting a high of 66 in 2017.

Only four local authority areas had more drug-related deaths in 2018 – Edinburgh, Glasgow, Dundee and North Lanarkshire.

The figure for the whole of Scotland soared to 1187 in 2018, meaning the country now has more drug-related deaths per capita than any other in the European Union, nearly three times that of the rest of the UK.

Of the 64 drug-related deaths in Fife in 2018, 49 were male and 15 were female. It was ruled that 52 of these deaths were accidental poisoning.

The data, published by the National Records of Scotland, also showed that more people between the ages of 35-44 suffered a drug-related death than any other age group.

April Adam, service manager at Fife Intensive Rehabilitation Substance Misuse Team (FIRST), a rehabilitation service for people in the Kingdom with drug or alcohol issues, said the organisation has had twice as many males as females using the service in 2018/19, with 25-40 being the most common age group. It also had three times as many drug referrals as alcohol referrals.

The data revealed that Methadone was implicated in, or potentially contributed to, the deaths of more Scots than any other drug.

There has also been a huge rise in the number of deaths linked to Etizolam. Just one death in Scotland was linked to the drug in 2012. However, that rose to 548 in 2018.

“Etizolam doesn’t really feature but it’s from the same family as Benzodiazepines/Valium and we see plenty of that, as well as heroin and cannabis use,” explained Ms Adam. “Cocaine/crack cocaine is becoming more prevalent. We also have a population who use prescription drugs.

“Many street drugs are cut with other ingredients so clients really can’t be sure of what they are taking or what the strength of the drugs are.”

Ms Adam also said an assertive outreach service in Fife would help, as some individuals do not engage with services.

“Fife Alcohol & Drug Partnership (ADP) and its partners are committed to delivering the new national drug strategy ‘Rights, Respect & Recovery’ and to increasing opportunities for people affected by substance misuse in Fife,” said Mark Stevens, ADP chair.

“We are concerned about the continued national rise in the numbers of people dying from drug related overdose.

“We extend our sympathies to the families of the 64 people who lost their lives last year and are committed to increase our efforts to prevent drug-related deaths in Fife.

“Fife ADP continues to work with Scottish Government, local third sector services, Police Scotland, Scottish Ambulance Service and NHS Fife to identify those most at risk from drug related death and near fatal overdose in order to provide meaningful and reachable services which allow people to effect real change in their own lives and work towards recovery from substance misuse in all its forms.

“A range of initiatives have been put in place over the last 12 months in direct response to rising drug deaths not only within Fife, but across Scotland.”

These initiatives include the Fife Overdose Prevention and Drug Death Monitoring Group, which meets every few months to address drug deaths and near fatal overdoses.