Borders sees rise in drugs-related deaths

Borderers are being urged to tackle the stigma surrounding drug use after figures showed the number of drug related deaths across the region have almost doubled in recent years.

Wednesday, 4th August 2021, 3:28 pm
Drug-related deaths have risen across Scotland.

Eighteen people lost their lives to drugs in the Borders in 2020, with the five year average number of drug-related deaths for 2016 to 2020 now at 16 compared with nine in 2011 to 2015.

The figures were revealed in the annual Drug-Related Deaths in Scotland Report, published last week, which showed that the total number of drug deaths across the country in 2020 was 1,339 – an increase of 75 from previous year.

NHS Borders says the reasons for problem drug use can be complex and include both personal and social circumstances.

The health board is working with a range of partners to help prevent drug related deaths, and has called on local residents to tackle stigma so more people seek help and support.

Dr Tim Patterson, Director of Public Health at NHS Borders, said: “This report is a powerful reminder that people in our communities are dying unnecessarily early due to drug-related illnesses and deaths.

"These figures are people – they are our sons, daughters, friends and neighbours.

"The Borders has a tremendous community spirit, so I would like to draw on that and ask you to help us tackle the stigma which can often surround drug use.

“We need a whole community approach with everyone putting an end to unhelpful notions of stereotypes because we know that stigma and prejudice can put off some people who use drugs from seeking support.

"One way you can help is by recognising that language matters – stigmatising language reinforces negative stereotypes while person-centred language focuses on the person, not their substance use.”

Examples of this and more information is available on the NHS Borders website,

Dr Patterson added: “Most importantly, if you think you need support please get in touch with NHS Borders Addiction Service or We Are With You.

"If you are concerned about a loved one please get in touch with We Are With You or the national Scottish Families Affected by Drugs & Alcohol.”

The Borders Conservative MP and MSP, John Lamont and Rachael Hamilton, are urging the Scottish Government to back their party's plans for a Right to Recovery Bill, which would make it law that everyone who needs drug treatment can gets it.

Mrs Hamilton, MSP for Ettrick, Roxburgh and Berwickshire, said drug deaths had “skyrocketed” across the Borders in recent years.

"These statistics are truly horrifying and heart-breaking,” she said.

“My thoughts are with anyone in the Borders who is grieving the loss of a loved one as a result of drugs.

"We need to see the SNP Government take urgent action now. With each passing year the drugs crisis is spiralling out of control.

"The Scottish Conservatives Right to Recovery Bill would guarantee in law the right to treatment for those who need it and is backed by multiple frontline organisations.

"I would urge local SNP representatives to back these plans. This crisis won't end overnight, but a guaranteed right to recovery would be a step in the right direction."

Responding to the latest figures, South Scotland SNP MSP Emma Harper said: “The drug related death figures for Scotland make for difficult reading and that is why a national mission is already underway to tackle drug related deaths and this is rightly a priority for the Scottish Government, using the powers available.

"It is vitally important to remember that those whose lives are blighted by drugs are our relatives, our friends, our neighbours and urgent action is being taken to help address issues relating to addiction.”

She said that the Scottish Government was improving pathways into residential rehabilitation and increasing its provision.

“Finally, it is worth reminding people that, fundamentally, drug policy is a matter reserved to the Westminster Government and that any attempt to implement change in relation to drug policy in Scotland to ensure it is dealt with as a medical, and not criminal matter, such as the introduction of drug consumption rooms, has been denied by the UK Government,” Ms Harper added.

"I therefore support the calls for drug policy to be devolved to the Scottish Parliament so it can be properly dealt with as a health issue, instead of a criminal justice issue as it currently is in Westminster.”