More than one person a week died from a drug overdose in Dundee last year, shocking new figures have revealed.
A staggering 53 people died in Dundee in 2018 as a result of taking drugs – two more than in 2017.
The figures published today in the Tayside Drug Death Review Group’s annual report show there were a total of 78 drug deaths across the NHS Tayside region, compared to 73 the previous year.
The board has described the increase as “a significant public health concern”, while drugs charities say authorities are not “getting it right” in tackling addiction.
The average age of someone dying from overdose was 40 and three times as many men succumbed to overdose than women.
There was also a concerning trend in the increase of certain drugs, including cocaine.
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Dr Emma Fletcher, chairwoman of the Tayside Drug Death Review Group and consultant in public health medicine, said: “Our sympathies are with all of the families affected by the tragedy of a death resulting from drug use.
“Substance misuse is a major public health concern and remains a priority for NHS Tayside and the three alcohol and drug partnerships in the Tayside area.
“People should not be dying as a result of drug use and in Tayside we are committed to seeing these current trends changed.”
Dr Fletcher added: “The number of drug deaths is increasing nationally and globally and altering this trend locally is extremely challenging.
“Organisations in Tayside have strengths and expertise to further develop plans to reduce the risk of people dying as a result of drug use in future.
“Naloxone is effective at reversing the effects of opioids such as morphine, heroin, codeine and methadone and the naloxone programme is being extended and organisations within the third sector can now offer kits and provide training.
“However, this report shows a concerning trend in the increase of certain drugs such as pregabalin, etizolam and cocaine present at the time of death, in addition to opioids.
“People are advised not to take a mix of substances and make sure that someone else is around to call for help if it is required.”
Dave Barrie, of drug support agency Addaction, said: “This is extremely upsetting. We’re not getting it right and we need to be even more determined to tackle the crisis that’s killing the people of our city.
“It’s devastating that the figures are continuing to increase. We’re working very hard but we obviously have to do more.
“It’s made me even more determined to redouble our efforts aimed at reducing the number of drug deaths we are seeing in our city.”
“Our hearts go out to those who have lost their lives and to the family members left behind.”
Sharon Brand, of Recovery Dundee, said: “I don’t understand why we’re allowing these figures to continue to rise.
“The figures were high last year and they have gone even higher. We should have had a public health inquiry called after last year’s figures were released.”
A spokesman for NHS Tayside said: “The recent and sustained increase in the number of people dying as a result of drug use is of significant public health concern.
“In 2018 there were a total of 78 drug deaths in Tayside, the highest number ever recorded in this region.
“Each drug death is a tragedy and impacts on a wide range of people, often including children, and has far-reaching implications for families and communities.”
The report carries recommendations including ensuring that people with problematic drug use are provided with appropriate mental health support in addition to managing substance use concerns.
More than 73% of those who died were known to have suffered from a mental health issue at some point in their lives.