A woman whose sister died from an overdose has called for more to be done to help those battling addiction, as new figures show drug deaths have risen by 89% rise in the past 10 years.
Statistics from the National Records of Scotland reveal that in the NHS Grampian area last year there were 85 drug-related deaths, compared with 45 in 2007.
Nationally, the number of people dying from drugs across the country has risen from 445 to 934 since 2007, a 105% increase.
Across Scotland, Greater Glasgow and Clyde had the highest number of deaths, with 280.
The report from the National Records of Scotland states that more than one drug may be reported per death.
Alana, of Aberdeen, lost her sister Vicki, a 32-year-old mum-of-three, in January following an overdose of a cocktail of drugs that included Xanax.
She said:“It’s devastating. It’s such a high number, I can’t get over how much it’s gone up.”
The major cause of deaths in the area was through opiates, with 75 deaths where they were a factor last year, compared to 59 the previous year.
Methadone was present in 53 deaths, compared to just 28 in 2016.
Meanwhile, opiates were also the biggest cause of drug deaths nationally, with 835 deaths in 2017.
Alana said: “I’m really shocked at methadone in particular, because this is something that’s supposed to get people off a serious drug.
“It’s not just supposed to give them an addiction to something else. There must be something out there that can help these people, because it’s ridiculous.”
In a message to the friends and family of people who have died from drugs, Alana said: “Don’t blame yourself. I tried everything I could to help my sister and now I don’t feel like I did enough, even though I know that I did.
“Stand by them as much as you can. At the end of the day, they’re your family and you’re trying to help them.
“Help them as much as you can and if they’re not willing, then at least you can’t say that you haven’t tried.”
Alana also called for more funding on the social side of drug use, saying: “It’s important to try and wipe out all the dealers, but when one gets caught then 10 show up in their place. The police are trying their hardest.”
She added that more help was needed to tackle the issue, but said: “At the end of the day, it all comes down to funding.
“You need to make sure that there’s enough people in departments that will be able to help people.”
The second highest cause of death in the NHS Grampian area was benzodiazepines – a group of drugs Xanax is part of.
In this area, 58 people died through their use, 48 of which were involved Valium.
The Scottish Government’s Public Health Minister Joe Fitzpatrick said: “Each of these untimely deaths is a tragedy. We will continue to do all we can to prevent others from experiencing similar heartbreak.
“This is in direct response to the changing drugs landscape, the continued rise in drug related deaths and the recognition that current services do not meet the needs of all the people who need support.”
North East MSP Tom Mason, who has previously called for urgent action over Xanax, added: “Behind these devastating figures are real people, their families and their friends. We need MSPs from all parties to work together to develop a new strategy to combat this scourge.”
And Kevin Stewart MSP for Aberdeen Central added: “Over the years I have seen families suffer while loved ones battle addiction and the tragic consequences that can come from an overdose or frequent drug use.
“More needs to be done to get to the root of drug addiction which can lead to tragic and ultimately preventable deaths of people across the north-east.”
Services are available to provide support and advice to anyone who is affected by the use of alprazolam or Xanax.
Alcohol and Drugs Action – 01224 594700 – provides support throughout Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire and are open seven days a week.
Turning Point Scotland – 01779 470490 – provides support in North Aberdeenshire, and Arrows – 01343 610500 – in Moray.