Borders drug deaths double

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Local Democracy Reporting Service

An NHS Borders spokesperson said: “In the Scottish Borders, the trend for drug related deaths is increasing and reflects the national picture.

“Every death is a tragedy and impacts on families and friends.

“In 2018, there were 21 drug-related deaths, up from 10 in 2017.

“Reasons for problematic drug use are complex and include both personal and social circumstances. People who have experienced adverse childhood experiences – including physical and sexual abuse, neglect, bereavement and abandonment, as well as adult trauma such as imprisonment and homelessness – are all personal drivers for problem drug use.  

“In addition, social circumstances that play a role in problem drug use include poverty and inequality.  

“Once someone experiences a drug problem, they have more limited means to escape poverty and their chances of gaining paid employment are affected, even in recovery.”

NHS Borders is taking action in response to the increase, including meeting partners at a range of other agencies. That includes reviewing the circumstances of each drug-related death to identify scope for learning and promote best practice, and the health board has commissioned an outreach service to work with people who find it difficult to engage and remain in drug services.

That service is currently recruiting and will work with Scottish Borders Council, Police Scotland and other health sector organisations.

The NHS spokesperson continued: “Staff overdose prevention training sessions are available, and risk factors for drug-related deaths are highlighted in all training events coordinated by our alcohol and drugs partnership.

“Access to high-quality treatment and recovery services for people in need is a priority. In the last three months, 100 per cent of individuals referred to alcohol and drug services started treatment within three weeks.”

Speaking at a council meeting last week, Tim Patterson, joint director of public health for Scottish Borders Council and NHS Borders, explained that naloxone, a medication used to temporarily reverse the effects of an opiate overdose, was used to save lives 39 times in the region during 2018.