DRUG deaths in Glasgow have rocketed to an unprecedented level with multiple drug use leading to a sharp rise in fatal overdoses.

The latest figures show an increase of 45% in drug related deaths, from 192 in 2017, to 280 last year.

The scale of the city’s problem can be seen by comparing with the rise across Scotland which was 27% to 1187 deaths, also a record level.

The figures mean drug related deaths in Glasgow have now trebled since 2010 when 94 people died.

In 220 cases, heroin or heroin substitutes were involved, meaning it is still the most problematic drug causing harm in the city.

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However, methadone and cocaine were also present in a rising number of cases.

The heroin substitute methadone, which is prescribed for addiction treatment, was in 133 cases up from 95 the previous year and cocaine was present in more than double from a year ago, in 57 cases.

The unprecedented rise is deaths is proof that radical interventions are required, according to SNP politicians who have backed calls for a Safer Drug Consumption Facility in the city which has been blocked by the UK Government.

Alison Thewlis, Glasgow Central SNP MP, said: “Decision-makers need to get out from behind their desks at Westminster and come to Glasgow to see the scale of this escalating problem. The UK Government’s position is absurd, especially when you consider that there is cross-party support for plans at Westminster, Holyrood, and Glasgow City Council, where plans were passed unanimously.

“A safer consumption facility is not a magic bullet, and wider action is needed to ensure the public health approach that Scotland wants to take is embedded in all services.”

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Councillor Mhairi Hunter, Glasgow’s City Convener for Health and Social Care, said: “Every death is a personal and family tragedy.

“A radical new approach to treatment is needed to save lives. Glasgow’s Health & Social Care Partnership welcomes the creation of a national drugs death taskforce and is championing the creation of a Safer Drug Consumption Facility in the city. Westminster’s refusal to change the law to enable this pilot project to go ahead is putting more lives at risk. The longer Westminster adopts an ostrich-like approach, more families will mourn loved ones.

“A Safer Drug Consumption Facility would help safeguard the general public from discarded needles as well as reducing fatal and non-fatal overdoses among the city’s drug users.”

Glasgow is to open an Enhanced Drug Treatment centre which involves using medical grade heroin administered under strict medical supervision which is hoped will help reduce overdoses.

Meanwhile Labour blamed a cut in alcohol and drug partnerships funding from the Scottish Government as contributing to the rise.

Monica Lennon, Health spokeswoman said: “It is unbelievable that in the middle of Scotland’s drug and alcohol crisis the SNP government has cut funding to vital support networks.

“They should be investing in Alcohol and Drug Partnership funding, not slashing support to those who badly need help.”

BLUES

Evening Times: Street valiumStreet valium

Drug users are playing Russian roulette with street valium which has led to dozens of drug related deaths in Glasgow.

The so called ‘street blues’ have been implicated in the majority of drug related deaths in Glasgow.

The pills, sold as valium but are not medical grade and are instead manufactured illegally, are being sold on the streets cheaply.

Taken with other drugs like heroin and methadone they are leading to overdoses and dozens have died in the last year after taking the drugs.

In Glasgow street benzodiazepines were present in 191 of the deaths.

Professionals working in the rehab and recovery services warned the drugs present a serious risk.

Evening Times:

Patricia Tracey Service Manager at Turning Point said: “The type of benzodiazepines is changing. “People think they’re buying one kind on benzodiazepine and what they get is different and the purity is different.

“It like Russian roulette. You take one tablet one day and it’s got something in it and the next day it’s something else. You can’t regulate your use because you don’t know what you’re taking.

“That’s been an issue that’s increasing. And heroin is still there.

“We always had an issue with valium that was manufactured but we’re seeing more of that.

“Often sold as valium but it’s something else in the Benzodiazepine family.”

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Health officials have noticed the trend for some time and also warned of the dangers with street valium.

Dr Carole Hunter, lead pharmacist for addictions with NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde, said: “Illicit benzos is a changing trend. It’s implicated in most of the drug deaths in Glasgow. There is a rise in benzos.”

The illegal ‘factory production’ of the drugs is also posing a problem.

Dr Hunter added: “What is in them one day could be fine but then the next day it is not.

“People don’t know what’s in them and they’re cheap. They have never been cheaper than they are now.”