NHS Borders on target to helping drug users as death figures soar

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AS Government figures show that the number of drug-related deaths in Scotland has reached its highest level, NHS Borders say they are on target to ensure those who have a drug problem recieve support at the earliest opportunity, with the health board’s consultant psychiatrist in addiction, Dr Mike Kehoe adding that the results highlighted “the ongoing tragedy of young lives cut short by drugs.”

Statistics released last month revealed that 584 people died from drug-related ilnesses nationwide last year, considerably higher than the 485 in 2010 and 76 per cent higher than the result of 332 10 years ago.

The number of drug-related deaths in the Borders actually fell by one to 8 in 2011 but this still represents a big increase from the one fatality 10 years ago.

In keeping with the national trend, the highest number of deaths due to drugs in the region were in the 25-34 age group.

Of the eight drug deaths in the NHS Borders area last year, two were classified as accidental poisioning with six registered as undetermined intent.

In some cases more than one drug was attributed to the deaths with methadone the one most found in Borders fatalities (four). Heroin and cocaine were both detected on two occasions and diazepam and any other benxo-diazepines found in three cases.

NHS Borders, who together with representatives from Scottish Borders Council, Lothian and Borders Police and the voluntary sector form the Alcohol and Drug Partnership, say that in the past year they consistently achieved the three week waiting time target which ensures that people who have problematic drug use are able to quickly access support to reduce their drug taking.

As well as providing treatment and recovery services to drug users, such as the administering of Naloxone (which temporarily reverses the effects of an overdose), the partnership’s two pronged approach also focuses on prevention with work including increasing alcohol and drugs awareness in children and young people through education in schools from a drugs and alcohol awareness officer and through the voluntary sector agency Face-to-Face and Up2U, which delivers peer education work.

A lot of work is also done to increase awareness of the dangers and implications of new drugs, especially the so called ‘legal highs’.