SUSPECTED drug deaths have rocketed in Glasgow the latest figures show.

The rise has been branded "devastating" as more than 300 suspected deaths were recorded in the Greater Glasgow area.

In 2023 there were 303 suspected drug deaths in Greater Glasgow a rise of 41% from the figure for the year before when it was 214.

The Glasgow rise is far higher than across Scotland where almost 1200 suspected deaths were recorded.

Official figures from Police Scotland records showed between January and December 2023 there were 1197 suspected drug deaths.

The total is 105 more than in 2022, a 9.6% rise, up from 1092.

The increase follows a downward trend from early 2021 to late 2022 with a rise over the recent three-month periods observed.

READ NEXT:Work starts on Glasgow's safer drug consumption facility

Most of the suspected deaths were of males, accounting for 875 or 73%, an increase of 108 or 14%.

There were 322 female deaths, 27% a drop of 3 or 1%.

Two thirds 66%, were of people aged between 35 and 54 and there were 54 suspected drug deaths among under 25s.

After Greater Glasgow, Lanarkshire had the next highest at 147 and Edinburgh City 118.

Campaigners said a change is needed to focus on recovery rather than treating addiction.

Annemarie Ward, chief executive of Favor UK, which advocates for people in recovery said the figures were “devastating”.

Glasgow Times: Annemarie Ward of FAVOR (Faces and Voices of Recovery)

She said if the Scottish Government “keep listening to addiction ‘experts’ they will get more addiction”.

READ NEXT: 'We must get it right': Glasgow's drug consumption room

She added it was “well past time to listen to recovery experts and they will get recovery”.

Opposition politicians have said thousands of people have died since former first minister Nicola Sturgeon declared an emergency in 2019.

Jackie Baillie, Scottish Labour health spokesperson, said: “This tragic rise in drug-related deaths is a clear sign that the government’s policy to tackle the crisis is not working.

“Scotland remains in the grip of a drug death health emergency with lives being needlessly lost.

“We cannot allow any more delay to the implementation of drug checking facilities and the pilot safer drug consumption room in Glasgow.

“Despite the fact that over 5,200 lives have been lost to drugs since a public health emergency was declared, it is shocking that this SNP Government’s budget for 2024/25 froze drug and alcohol spending, which amounts to a real terms cut.”

Yesterday the Glasgow Times reported work has now started on the city’s safer drug consumption facility in the east end.

It is due to be open later this year.

Sue Webber, Scottish Conservative MSP, said: “These figures are utterly appalling and heartbreaking.  

“Drug deaths remain Scotland’s national shame on the SNP’s watch and far too many people are grieving the loss of loved ones as a result and my thoughts are with them.

“SNP ministers look to have taken their eye off the ball again with devastating consequences. It should be a source of shame for them that despite Scotland already having by far the worst drug fatality rate in Europe, the number of deaths is on the rise again.”

She called on the Right to Recovery Bill, written with Favor UK, to be supported.

Christina McKelvie, Drugs and Alcohol Policy Minister said: “Drug deaths in Scotland are still too high and every life lost is a tragedy. I am focused on working across Government, Parliament and beyond, to reduce deaths and improve lives.

“This week, the First Minister and I will hold a roundtable on drugs and alcohol to drive forward vital partnership working.

“Through our £250 National Mission on Drugs, we’re taking a wide range of measures and National Mission funds have now backed more than 300 grassroots projects. We’ll continue to expand residential rehabilitation capacity and drive MAT standards. We're also committed to delivering drug-checking facilities. This year, we’re made a record £112 million available to local Alcohol and Drug Partnerships. 

We are working hard to respond to the growing threat posed by super-strong synthetic opioids and, in particular the increased appearance of nitazenes in an increasingly toxic and unpredictable drug supply. These are being found in a range of substances and bring with them increased risks of overdose, hospitalisation and death. Because they are many times stronger than opioids like heroin, I would urge people to carry extra life-saving naloxone kits.”