Drug deaths: Scotland and Ireland similarities

The ghastly events in Brussels yesterday pushed on to the back pages the appalling news that drug-related deaths in Scotland are up by a 5th and rising faster in women than men,” writes Peter McCann of Castle Craig Hospital.” Ireland and Scotland are very poorly provided for quality and intensive alcohol and drug treatment services.” Click headline.


“It is interesting to note that 54% of the deaths had used drugs for more than 10 years, and a similar proportion had previously experienced a non-fatal overdose.  Three-fifths had psychiatric conditions.

The Report from the NHS Information Services Division stated that the increased numbers of people dying drug-related deaths requires continued effort on both prevention and treatment fronts.  It also mentions that the information paints the picture of an aging cohort of long term drug users with multiple complex health and social care needs.  They call for patient-centred needs – based, recovery – orientated treatment services along with robust risk assessments.

This all begs two questions.

The first is why are  NICE Guidelines not being observed which states that in-patient detox and rehabilitation should be considered for older patients and also if there is to be robust risk assessments which may strongly indicate that in-patient treatment is necessary, where are they going to get this?

At this addiction alcohol and addiction treatment centre, at a peak we were receiving 250 patients a year referred by the NHS and this has dwindled to a handful.  Fortunately we are busy with patients from other sources however over the last ten years we could have treated 2,000 NHS patients and we would then venture to suggest that many of these, who were not able to get intensive in-patient treatment, are amongst the death figures over the last few years. Do the authorities have any insight here?

In the  Republic of Ireland it was reported that 1,500 accident and emergency  hospital beds are occupied every night due to alcohol. No treatment as such is involved. Three people die every day due to alcohol   and Ireland as reported by the WHO has the second highest binge drinking rate in the world.

Working on both sides of the Irish Sea I can see remarkable similarities with dramatic increases in alcohol and drug related deaths in both countries.  The total figure for these deaths in Ireland and Scotland where the rates are about the same in each country, amounted to 3,500 last year and this compares with a global worldwide figure of aeroplane deaths of 374.  Likewise the motoring deaths in both Countries last year amounted to 366.

Both countries, Ireland and Scotland, are very poorly provided for quality and intensive alcohol and drug treatment services with no sign of any improvement in provision.”