ALMOST one in 10 of those on the list for help over a drug or alcohol problem have been waiting five weeks or more.

New figures showed that at the end of September 2020 there were 2,037 people waiting for their first treatment.

The Public Health Scotland data disclosed that 185 of this group – 9.7% – had been waiting for more than five weeks to get help.

The most common treatment offered was described as a “structured preparatory and motivational intervention”, followed by community-based support and rehabilitation.

Addicts could also be given a prescribed drug treatment, go on a community-based detox programme or undergo residential detoxification and rehabilitation.

The figures come days after it was revealed Scotland recorded 1,264 deaths in 2019 which involved substance use – a higher rate than across all EU countries and more than three times the rate of the UK as a whole.

The Scottish Government has set the target of having 90% of people referred for help with their drug or alcohol problem waiting no longer than three weeks for treatment.

For the most recent quarter the figures for all of Scotland showed 97.2% of 9,342 people who started getting help for a drug or alcohol problem did so within three weeks – up from 95.1% in the period July to September 2019.

A total of 97.4% of the 5,365 people starting alcohol treatment waited three weeks or fewer, up from 94.9% in the same quarter of last year.

Meanwhile, 96.9% of the 3,977 people starting drug treatment had waited three weeks or under, an increase from 95.3%.

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “We welcome the fact that the standard for drug and alcohol treatment waiting times continues to be met on a national basis, with the majority of health boards exceeding it.

“These statistics continue to show that drug and alcohol support services have been maintained as priority services during the pandemic.”

In the wake of the recent drugs deaths figures, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon appointed Angela Constance as the new minister for drugs policy.

That came after the resignation of Joe FitzPatrick, who had responsibility for the issue in the Scottish Government as public health minister.

The Scottish Government spokesman added that “despite these very welcome treatment statistics, we have still seen over 1,200 people having lost their lives to drugs” in 2019.

He said: “That’s why efforts to help tackle drugs deaths and improve services will now be led by a new dedicated minister for drugs to drive the change we all want to see.”