DRUG deaths are expected to have risen above 200 a year in Glasgow for the first time when figures are revealed today.

Research has shown the city to have the biggest problem in Europe.

When the latest statistics, covering 2018, are added it will mean almost 1500 people have died in the last ten years.

That is 1500 men and women, sons, daughters, mothers, fathers and sisters and brothers.

It is why the Evening Times is calling for a concerted government response.

We are calling for an Emergency Drug Deaths Summit to be held in Glasgow.

We want the most powerful politicians to get together, see first hand the scale of the problem, listen to the service users and providers and unite to come up with action to reduce the deaths.

The scale of deaths demands action from Glasgow City Council and NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde, the Scottish Government and the UK Government.

The figures show many are an ageing drug user population who have multiple health problems as a result of long term drug use.

There are also a high number of under 35s showing this is not only a legacy of the 1980s explosion in heroin addiction.

In Glasgow, the figures have rocketed from 90 deaths in 2007 to 192 in 2017 and even more last year.

READ MORE: Family’s tributes to Glasgow schoolgirl who died after house party

The vast majority, if not all of the deaths involve more than one drug.

The most common present is heroin and heroin substitutes.

However, cocaine use has been rising and in particular injecting and there has been a rise in recent years in benzodiazepines implicated in deaths.

We are calling for every level of Government to treat this as the emergency it undoubtedly is.

The council and health board wants to set up a Safer Drug Consumption Room, to reduce fatal overdoses, cut down on public injecting and encourage more people to get medical help and addiction support.

This has been proven to work in several countries and will help with the most problematic drug users.

The council and health board must also ensure enough resources are directed at rehabilitation services and prescribing of methadone for example.

David Liddell, chairman of the Scottish Drugs Forum said: “Our focus is on sub-optimal prescribing of methadone.

“In 2016 a report suggested 29 per cent of doses were less than 60ml. In many cases, doses are too low.

“There is an issue with people not given the appropriate dose because prescribers are reluctant.

“A lot is being driven by people being risk-averse. It can cause more harm to the user. Sub-optimal prescribing is unlikely to reduce heroin use and can lead to fatal overdoses.

“People are also waiting too long to get on methadone.”

The Scottish Government has set up a task force chaired by Professor Catriona Matheson to present recommendations but funding to health boards for drugs and alcohol services have been reduced and budgets need to be re-instated.

The Scottish Government needs to look at what more can be done now to prevent these deaths. People need action now.

READ MORE: Mum hails medics who saved daughter left fighting for life after taking drugs at TRMSMT Festival

Carole Hunter, lead pharmacist NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde, said: “We support the establishment of the task force but this needs an immediate response.

“This is a major problem for everyone, not just addiction services but for all.”

She said there was a range of services available but more could be available.

Dr Hunter added: “We meet all our waiting time targets, our services are possibly the easiest to access. Treatment is within days where people get a full physical assessment. Prescribing can be the same day.

“A problem is coverage is not as good as it could be. I would like naloxone to be more easily available.”

There are other initiatives that could also be introduced to deal with changing patterns.

Dr Hunter said: “Illicit benzos is a changing trend. People do not know what’s in them and they are cheap. They have never been cheaper than they are now.

“There is no drug checking facility. What is in these pills one day may not be the same the next day. There is no difference between a Drug Consumption Room and a needle exchange. Scotland has had exemptions in place since 2001 for harm reduction treatment, so there is a precedent.”

The UK Government holds the cards with control over the 1971 Misuse of Drugs Act reserved to Westminster.

It is time the almost 50-year-old act was re-visited, the problem has developed since then and it is not fit for purpose.

The UK Government has yet to send a representative to the Scottish Affairs Committee investigation into problem drug use. It must engage in seeking a solution to a problem it cannot ignore and must accept the current approach has failed.

And it must come to Glasgow see the need for a Drug Consumption Room and for a wider emergency response to the scandal of Glasgow’s drug deaths.


WE have sent the following letter to Boris Johnson, Jeremy Hunt, Home Secretary Sajid Javid,  drugs minister Victoria Atkins, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf, public health minister Joe Fitzpatrick, Glasgow City Council leader Susan Aitken and Mhairi Hunter, vice chairman of the Integrated Joint Board:

“There is a public health emergency in the city of Glasgow. 

Drug-related deaths have increased to record levels and almost 1500 people have died in the city in the last 10 years.

We believe that with political will and appropriate government actions these deaths are preventable.

The latest figures released today are expected to show more than 1000 deaths in Scotland and more than 200 in Glasgow.

It is our opinion that this requires urgent action from every level of Government.

We are calling for an emergency drugs death summit to be held in Glasgow.

The problem exists across Scotland and the United Kingdom but the statistics consistently show that Glasgow is in the greatest need of an emergency response.

It would be to the benefit of the entire country if Glasgow City Council, the Scottish Government and the UK Government were to jointly convene this summit with a view to pursuing an agreed course of action immediately.

Our city’s sons and daughters are dying in record numbers. It is therefore obvious that the current practices are not effective.

We think this is completely unacceptable and demand action from all our representatives.

An emergency drugs summit would allow decision-makers the opportunity to meet and listen to the service providers, service users and their families and with health professionals and police and prosecutors.

On behalf of the people of Glasgow, we are asking for you to commit to agreeing to help organise and attend an emergency summit in Glasgow.

We look forward to your response.”

Yours on behalf of the people of Glasgow 
The Evening Times