Many drug addicts 'miss treatment'
More than a third of Scots who died from drug-related deaths in 2009 had not received any treatment for their addiction, according to a new report.
The report, which analysed 432 deaths from overdoses, revealed 172 of those users had received no contact with treatment services during their lives.
The majority of those who died were male, white and from a deprived area.
Most had been drug users for at least five years, with heroin the most widely used substance. The deaths were studied in a report by the National Drug Related Death Database (NDRDD).
The report was undertaken in addition to national reporting of drug-related deaths published in August by the General Register Office for Scotland (GROS), which recorded 545 drug-related deaths in 2009, a decrease from the peak of 574 in 2008.
The NDRDD study excluded deaths which GROS recorded as confirmed suicides.
Speaking during a visit to an Alcohol and Drugs Partnership in Fife on Tuesday, Fergus Ewing, minister for community safety, said: "This report makes very difficult and distressing reading. Earlier intervention through treatment may have been able to steer these people away from addiction and into recovery.
"This Government recognises the importance of people with drug problems being able to access the right treatment and support, at the right time. The Scottish Government believes that our national drugs strategy, the Road to Recovery, will make the difference.
"Every death from drugs in Scotland is a tragedy. However, we cannot turn the clock back. Everyone with an interest in fighting drug misuse - this Government, frontline addiction workers, GPs, social workers and others - can learn something from this report today and its findings can help all of us, not least vulnerable members of society currently experiencing a drug misuse problem who we can still pull back from the brink."
Mr Ewing said the Scottish Government was providing £28.6 million to health boards for frontline drug services in 2010/11, which represents an increase of more than 20% since 2006/07. Funding will be maintained at 2010/11 levels in 2011/12, subject to Parliamentary approval.