North-east families ‘torn apart’ by number of drug deaths

Gordon Cruden is area manager for a charity which helps people overcome addiction
Gordon Cruden is area manager for a charity which helps people overcome addiction

One person is dying as a result of drug abuse every four days in the north-east, with families “torn apart” as a result of the high number of fatalities.

Figures held by the National Records of Scotland, and released by police this week, show that there were 182 drug related deaths in the north-east over the past two years.

There were 94 deaths in 2017, followed by 88 last year. Those figures have been described as “tough reading” by hard-pressed charities working to help those in the grip of addiction.

Nonetheless they have pledged to continue to do everything in their power “to put hope within reach of addicts”.

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Throughout Scotland, the only regions where more people died were Greater Glasgow and Lanarkshire.

Fraser Hoggan, chief executive officer of Scottish charity Alcohol and Drugs Action, said he was “not surprised” by the statistics as he called for fresh action.

The charity receives funding from NHS Grampian, Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire councils and the Scottish Government, offering a variety of programs in a bid to reduce the number of people trapped by their drug addiction and, ultimately, save lives.

Mr Hoggan said: “The general trend in recent years had been one of a significant increase in the number of drug deaths.

“The majority affect individuals over 35 who have been struggling with substance abuse for a long time.

“As a result, their general wellbeing is not good and sadly they are very susceptible to a fatal overdose.”

Mr Hogan explained that while there is no “magic cure” for the drug epidemic sweeping the north-east, improving legislation on a Government level would be a necessary step.

He said: “People can be more compassionate – that’s the first step.

“Those affected by drug addiction have made some extremely bad choices and may not have been welcome to the same level of education or family support we have.

“We are hampered by legislation which also does not reduce the stigma – and when drug addicts are stigmatised they don’t seek help – no matter how much is out there.”

Gordon Cruden, area manager of local addiction recovery charity Teen Challenge North East Scotland, agreed that the statistics made the work of charities more important than ever.

He said: “These latest statistics make tough reading and we have to remember that each number represents a family whose lives have been torn apart by the tragic loss of a loved one.

“The figures indicate that the need for our recovery centres is as vital as ever.

“We continue to be driven by our mission statement to ‘put hope within reach of addicts’ and have been working hard to achieve that since our men’s centre, Sunnybrae, opened in Turiff in 2003 and our women’s recovery home, Benaiah, was established in Peterhead in 2009.”