More than a dozen people in Dundee lost their lives to drugs in the first half of 2018, new figures have revealed.
In the six months between April to September of this year, police dealt with 14 confirmed cases of drug deaths in the city.
The figures, released by Police Scotland via a freedom of information request, suggest a possible decline in the number of people dying from drugs when compared to last year, when 51 people lost their lives in 12 months.
Of those deaths, 12 were male and two were female. The majority of people who died were in the 40-49 age group.
The DD4 postcode – which covers areas including Whitfield, Craigie and Maryfield – suffered the highest number of losses, with five.
The use of etizolam was recorded in all but one of the 14 deaths, with eight instances of methodone, seven of gabapentin and six cases involving heroin metabolites.
Alcohol was present in five of the deaths, as was mirtazapine.
Andy Perkins, from the Dundee Drugs Misuse Commission, said it was important to continue trying to cut down the number of drug deaths.
He said: “If those figures hold out for the rest of the year, they would be highly welcome.
“But we need to be careful about making assumptions from just statistics. If the figures are showing a decline, that’s fantastic and maybe some changes are starting to be made.
“There could be a multitude of reasons for fewer drug deaths.
“Perhaps people are becoming more aware of services but also the attention that drugs are getting is encouraging people to look at new ways of engaging with the issue.”
The Dundee Drugs Misuse Commission was set up in March to tackle the rise in drug-related deaths, and priorities going into the new year include looking at characteristics of people dying from drug misuse.
Andy said: “We’ll be focusing on drug-related deaths data by age and gender following on from earlier commissions. We’ll also compare Dundee to elsewhere.
“We’ve heard that Dundee is the drug deaths capital of Europe but that claim can’t be made because drug deaths data is recorded differently across Europe.”
This year has also resulted in a number of initiatives aimed at reducing the number of drug deaths in the city being launched.
They include Gowrie Care Dundee’s ODNotMe campaign, which aims to raise awareness of overdose prevention.
Through the scheme, the group handed out more than 500 naloxone kits since March, which are said to reverse 90% of opiate overdoses.
Meanwhile, a police spokesman said the force’s Operation Slate, which targets drug-related criminality in Tayside, “continues to be successful in removing illegal drugs from our streets”.
Dr Drew Walker, NHS Tayside director of public health, said: “Improving the support for people who have problem drug use is a priority for the three alcohol and drugs partnerships within the Tayside area.
“Improvements are being made to how cases of drug deaths are being reviewed to enable more timely sharing of information about emerging trends.
“The take-home naloxone programme is being extended and now organisations within the third sector are able to provide training to people wishing to have kits.
“Greater support is being provided to individuals who have had a non-fatal overdose and changes are planned for the way services are delivered in Dundee with the development of multi-agency hubs.”