Some doctors are blaming this rise on the failing health of addicts who started heroin in the 1980s but others believe the Scottish practice of using methadone based treatments is backfiring.
Dr Roy Robertson, a GP who chairs the national forum on drug-related deaths, said: “The deaths are partly the legacy of the large influx of drugs we saw in Scotland in the 1980s. Inevitably people are going to die younger as a result of this.”
More than 50% of the drug deaths involved people using the methadone. This may be because of a negative interaction between the methadone and other drugs or it could be down to the methadone itself.
Methadone is the most common drug cited in drug deaths. It was implicated in 234 cases in 2011 alone. By comparison, heroin itself was only involved in 169 deaths and Diazapam in 101. Cocaine and ecstasy were only involved in 33 deaths.
Supporting the push away from methadone treatment is Labour Justice Spokesman Lewis Macdonald. He said, “The number of drug deaths continues to rise and the trend is deeply worrying. While methadone is a valuable way of stabilising drug use, it can’t be seen to be the only solution for drug addiction.
Paul Tuohy, the chief executive of the substance abuse charity Mentor took this view a step further in an interview with the Scotsman. He said, “We need to rethink our entire approach. If those parents who are dying now because of their drug misuse had been given proper support and effective preventative programmes at school, many would not have gone on to become addicted to drugs.”
Tuohy said that children with addicted parents are especially vulnerable and need extra support and help both from school and the government. This could mean providing extra treatment options for parents, school based support programs for kids and a number of other support options. He said: “Of course you need treatment programmes, but we need to be looking at what can be done to prevent young people becoming addicts in future.”