An urgent warning for people to avoid taking illicit substances has been issued after “upwards of 10 suspected deaths” occurred in Aberdeen in a single month.
The figure is significantly higher than the monthly average of four recorded in 2020, prompting the Aberdeen City Alcohol and Drug Partnership (ADP) to sound the warning.
Chris Littlejohn, NHS Grampian’s deputy director of public health, said there was a “continuing challenge” to reduce the number of drug-related deaths in Aberdeen.
Illicit tablets seem to significantly increase the risk of people dying.
Mr Littlejohn said: “What we do see is combinations of drugs that have a sedating effect on the central nervous system and combinations of drugs that create a toxic effect in the body.
“Increasingly the role of illicit tablets, whether bought online or on the streets, seems to significantly increase the risk of people dying.
“Toxic combinations of substances, however obtained, are proving fatal.
“We know that people who have used substances, even on and off, for a number of years are at higher risk but we are also seeing younger people taking tablets with very serious consequences.”
The devastation upon a family is tragic when a life is lost.
ADP chairman Richard Craig
There is no current evidence that the recent deaths in Aberdeen are due to one specific drug in circulation.
The risk of drug-related death appears to be related to multi-drug use, particularly when illicit benzodiazepines are part of the mix.
ADP chairman Richard Craig said: “The devastation upon a family is tragic when a life is lost.
“Anyone offered illicit substances should turn them down. They may be cheap but they are not safe.
“There are local services available and they are open now to help. Naloxone nasal spray is also available to friends and family to help reverse the effects of an overdose, as is simple training on what to do in an emergency prior to the arrival of an ambulance.”
A total of 82 people died from drug-related reasons in Grampian during 2019 – down 10 on the previous year.
Alcohol and Drugs Action offers a seven days a week helpline on 03333 448 355 or on (01224) 594-700 and can provide access to naloxone supply and other supports as required.
Naloxone is also available from most community pharmacies free of charge and can also be ordered free online here.
Scottish drug-related deaths hit record high in 2019
Annual statistics on drug-related deaths released last December showed that the number of deaths in Scotland had soared to its worst level on record.
The figures in Grampian and the Highlands appear to be bucking the trend, however.
In 2019 1,264 people from across the country died from drug-related reasons.
There were 77 more deaths than in 2018, when a record-high total was also recorded, marking a 6% increase in the last year.
Calls have been made for new initiatives to stem the “alienation, marginalisation and stigmatisation” of people with a drug problem to ease the skyrocketing statistics.
Figures from The National Records Of Scotland (NRS) show the average number of drug-related deaths has more than doubled in a decade.