Reader Ronnie Hughes sent us the above, writing:
On the back of an outstanding election result in all forms for the independence parties, is this the best picture and headline they could come up with? Considering the downright lies and misinformation continually pumped out by the main media outlets, I think this is a new low for the Courier, down even to the Sun level. Absolutely despicable.
Ronnie is correct about the attitude and also reminds me that Scotland’s drug deaths have a complex history for which the SNP is not to blame.
The Conservatives get to demand a big expansion in services but escape without any reference to their role in denying the permission at UK-level, for the safe injection rooms that could save many lives. As for the historical background linking the high death rate which is nearly all among older users whose young lives were shattered by Thatcher’s destruction of industrial Scotland in the 1980s, well forget that. What about Labour’s decades long betrayal of those same communities? Don’t be silly. That never happened, in their world.
So, in more detail, three things:
- Drug deaths statistics are counted differently across the UK.
- This spike in deaths is largely among older addicts, know as the Trainspotting Generation and they are the victims of Tory economic policies in the 1980s.
- The Scottish Government has beaten the waiting time targets for drug treatment.
- Drug deaths are counted differently in Scotland and England:
The statistics come from a source which compares these with English data which are not gathered in the same way. See this telling example on page 47:
‘It follows that some deaths could (in theory) be counted differently in, say, Scotland and England. For example, a death from intentional self-poisoning by an uncontrolled substance would be counted in Scotland (but not in England) if a controlled substance was present in the body but was not believed to have contributed to the death (because the presence of the controlled substance would not be recorded in the data for England).’
And contributing to this problem, deaths are more likely to be recorded as suicide in Scotland:
Unlike Scotland, in England and Wales, whether a death due to injury is classified as intentional or accidental depends on information provided by coroners. Narrative verdicts from coroners often do not provide information on whether the injuries were due to intentional self-harm, were accidental or were of undetermined intent. In these circumstances, coding rules mean that classification of the death defaults to ‘accidental’, and therefore suicides may be underestimated in England and Wales (and therefore also the UK).’
2. Tory economic policies in the 1980s are to blame:
Scotland’s drug death crisis is based disproportionally upon older drug users who began using heroin in the 1980s and 90s under the Tory and New Labour neoliberal economic policies which lauded greedy individualism, and which destroyed communities through a failure to create employment and a misguided war on drugs. Researchers have shown this to be a predictable and widespread phenomenon:
Drug Overdose Rates Are Highest in Places With the Most Economic and Family Distresshttps://scholars.unh.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1339&context=carsey
During the 1980s and ’90s there was a significant increase in problem drug users in Scotland, which peaked about 20 years ago. There is now an ageing population of drug addicts, mainly men, who have been using heroin for decades. Biologically they are ageing much faster than their real age and they develop multiple morbidity, particularly around respiratory diseases, liver diseases and blood-borne viruses and this adds a further vulnerability with regards to overdose deaths. Last year, more than two-thirds of drug-related deaths were aged between 35 and 54.
3. Don’t expect to hear that the NHS Scotland drug treatment service consistently beats its 90% target for treatment within 3 weeks and that in the three-month period to December 31st 2020 had treated 95.7% of the 8 513 seeking treatment within that demanding timescale.