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Police report significant drop in drug deaths

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By Marc McLean, local democracy reporter
Police report significant drop in drug deaths

DRUG deaths appear to have dropped dramatically in Dumfries and Galloway this year in the wake of a new “holistic approach” to tackling substance abuse.

Four drug-related fatalities were recorded in the region in the first six months of this year, April 1 to September 30.

This number is dwarfed by last year’s figure of 34 deaths during the same six-month period.

However, the region’s police commander admitted that the fatality number is not conclusive because there has been a delay with some toxicology reports.

Chief superintendent John Cairns attended Dumfries and Galloway Council’s police, fire and rescue sub-committee last week and provided a force update, along with various crime statistics. He told councillors how a different approach is now being taken to try and combat drug abuse and reduce deaths.

Mr Cairns said: “I’m conscious of the fact that the numbers are down significantly, which I welcome. But I’m not losing sight of the fact that each and every number represents a human being, and a family in the wider community.

“We have worked very closely with colleagues in NHS DG, the alcohol and drug partnership, colleagues in the Scottish Prison Service and such like to take a holistic approach.

“There’s intervention and support that includes naloxone. The vast majority of officers now are naloxone trained.

“So, I think it’s a good example – without being complacent – of collaborative working to ensure that we’re all focusing in and doing everything we possibly can to encourage desistance if possible.

“But we also provide support, for example where there has been a near-fatal overdose, to have as quick as possible an intervention. And that’s supported by all of the partners in this.”

Naloxone is a medicine that rapidly reverses an overdose from opioids such as heroin. Police officers and some community drugs organisation members have been trained in administering it to help save people who have overdosed.

Committee chairman Councillor Ian Blake highlighted how there has been a delay with the results of some toxicology reports, which may alter the drug death statistics.

Chief superintendent Cairns replied: “Toxicology will determine a confirmed drug-related death, and that goes through a scientific and rigorous process.

“There will still be some cases to be examined, and for toxicology reports to come back, but it’s a significant drop to four.

“I’m not minimising the fact that there are four people who have died, and there are other investigations ongoing.

“So that number will change. It’s likely to increase, but we are waiting on those toxicology reports.”

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