People in the Highlands are being encouraged to download a life-saving app, amid a tripling in the number of drugs deaths.
Figures from National Records of Scotland this morning showed 33 people died after taking drugs in the north of Scotland last year.
This marked a steep increase on the 11 recorded in 2019, but is down on the 36 deaths noted the year before.
NHS Highland recorded the fewest drugs deaths of all Scottish health boards over the course of 2020, but bosses say more work is still needed.
In April, Highland Alcohol & Drugs Partnership (HADP) launched a new app in the hopes of saving people’s lives.
The Highland Overdose Prevention & Engagement (Hope) programme offers a range of advice on recognising and treating an overdose, recovery and how to speak to someone you are concerned about.
It also provides contact details for a raft of support services to encourage people to find the help they require.
HADP says it reviews every death in order to “learn lessons and improve practice”, which has led to involvement in a number of initiatives.
Recently it has worked with the ambulance service to better help people who have overdosed, and provided a range of awareness training courses.
It is currently working with pharmacies and Scottish Families Affected by Drugs to provide overdose-reversing naloxone kits to communities, which can be used to save lives in emergency situations.
Additionally, it is piloting a housing project for people at higher risk of drug and alcohol-related death, who also have mental health problems and complex needs.
‘Kindness, compassion and hope’ key to tackling topic
Highland Alcohol & Drugs Partnership co-ordinator Deborah Stewart said: “We all have a role to play in reducing drug deaths.
“HADP urges the public in Highland to be overdose aware by downloading the Hope app for free.
“Tackling stigma, which often acts as a barrier to treatment, is something we can all do by using people-first language and demonstrating kindness, compassion and hope towards people and families affected by drug problems.”
Chairwoman Elisabeth Smart said: “We continue to tackle drug-related deaths in Highland and one of the areas of work we can focus on is tackling stigma.
“HADP is committed to tackling stigma towards those with problematic drug use, and to bring individuals, families, and partner agencies together to achieve better outcomes for next year and the following years.”