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West Dunbartonshire’s MP Martin Docherty-Hughes has welcomed new figures showing a drop in the number of drug-related deaths in the area.

In 2022, there were 20 deaths in West Dunbartonshire attributed to drugs – a reduction of almost 30% from the previous year and the lowest annual total since 2017.

West Dunbartonshire had the fifth highest rates of drug misuse deaths in Scotland, behind Glasgow, Dundee, Inverclyde and North Ayrshire – with deprived areas impacted worse than more affluent parts of the country.

The latest figures from the National Records of Scotland show there’s been a record fall in the number of Scotland’s drug-related deaths, with progress welcomed by campaigners and political leaders.

It follows the launch in 2021 of the Scottish Government’s National Drugs Mission, which invests an additional £50 million per year to reduce drug deaths and improve the lives of those impacted by substance misuse.

Earlier this year the Scottish Government proposed decriminalising the possession of drugs for personal use, arguing that drug misuse is better treated as a health matter rather than a criminal one. The UK government, which retains control over drug laws in Scotland, has refused calls to devolve drug policy to Scotland’s Parliament.

Commenting, Martin Docherty-Hughes MP said:

“The fall in drug-related deaths in West Dunbartonshire is welcome, but too many lives continue to be devastated by substance misuse. My thoughts are with all those who have lost loved ones to the scourge of drugs.

“These figures are a reminder that the harms of problem drug use are rooted in poverty and inequality – a problem exacerbated in our communities by over a decade of UK austerity.

“Following the launch of the Scottish Government’s £250m National Drugs Mission, we’re starting to see real progress in reducing drug deaths. The work of local groups like the Alternatives Community Recovery Project in West Dunbartonshire is also vital to tackling the issue.

“I hope to see further progress through investment in prevention, treatment, and recovery services. It’s frustrating though that these efforts continue to be held back by Westminster’s outdated drugs policies.”

Drugs and Alcohol Policy Minister Elena Whitham said:

“I will never underestimate the scale of the challenge we continue to face, including responding to new threats such as synthetic opioids and stimulant use.

“I can see that our work across Scotland, where we have already supported 300 grass-roots projects, is gathering pace, and I’m grateful to all those delivering vital services.

“As part of our £250 million National Mission on drugs, we’ll continue to focus on getting more people into the form of treatment and support they need, expand access to residential rehabilitation and drive the rollout of life-saving Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT) Standards where we are making significant progress.

“As we highlighted in our recent Drug Law Reform proposals, the UK government could do more to work with us to help introduce harm reduction measures.”

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