In the most recent quarter, April to June 2023, there were 302 suspected drug deaths during the period.
Despite recent annual data showing a decline in the number of Scotland’s drugs deaths, concerns have been raise that the latest figures highlight that more work needs to be done.
The statistics are released after the Lord Advocate Dorothy Bain opened the door for a pilot drug consumption facility in Glasgow after saying it would not be in the public interest to prosecute those possessing drugs in such a facility.
Scottish Conservative health spokesperson, Dr Sandesh Gulhane, described the issue as “Scotland’s national shame”.
Dr Gulhane said: “It is utterly scandalous that we are seeing the number of lives lost to drugs heading in the wrong direction once again.
“Nicola Sturgeon – by her own admission – took her eye off the ball and deaths soared as a result. Humza Yousaf is in danger of doing the same.
“Scotland has by far the worst drug deaths rate in the whole of Europe, but we are still seeing far too little in the way of action from SNP ministers to tackle this crisis.”
Read more: Explained: Scotland’s rising drug deaths
Criticising the Scottish Government, Dr Gulhane added: “One of their main plans looks to be picking a fight with the UK Government and pushing for the decriminalisation of drugs.”
Scottish Labour has warned that the Scottish Government must also commit to proper funding of treatment and rehabilitation services.
Scottish Labour health spokesperson and deputy leader, Jackie Baillie, said: “Scotland’s drugs death crisis is a national tragedy and these damning figures show that it is far from over.
“Any changes that help tackle this crisis are a welcome intervention, but they cannot reverse these tragic figures alone.
“We know that more must be done to prevent any more fatalities and keep people safe, but we also need more and wider support for people struggling with addiction.
“While the latest news on drug consumption rooms is welcome, it must be coupled with proper funding for drug and alcohol treatment and rehabilitation and a commitment to tackle the root causes of addiction.”
Scottish Liberal Democrat leader and health spokesperson Alex Cole-Hamilton, said: “Behind each of these numbers is a life cut short and a family torn apart by grief.
“With drugs deaths that are still the very worst in Europe, the Scottish Government must now use every tool at its disposal to reduce harm and save lives.”
He added: “I was pleased to read the Lord Advocate’s recommendation on safe drug consumption rooms, which my party has consistently argued are a key part of the solution alongside access to medical care and support.
“The Scottish Government must now push ahead with a trial for consumption rooms swiftly and urgently. If that is successful, the government’s hand will be strengthened immeasurably in pressing ahead with similar proposals in areas like Dundee, where drug misuse has taken such a deadly and tragic toll.”
SNP Drugs Policy Minister, Elena Whitham, said the figures showed there was “no room for complacency”, saying that deaths “remain far too high”.
Ms Whitham said: “While the official statistics from National Records of Scotland for 2022 showed a decline in the number of deaths in 2022 – a reduction of 279 from the previous year – the numbers we are seeing remain far too high and the suspected drug death figures for the first half of this year show there is absolutely no room for complacency as we continue to deliver our national mission to tackle this crisis.”
She added: “This includes implementation of the key harm reduction approaches such as safer drug consumption facilities, following the announcement by the Lord Advocate that it would not be in the public interest for people using a pilot safer drug consumption room to face prosecution for possession within the facility.
“It’s vital this pilot has the full confidence of the general public as well as those who use the facility, and the leadership of Glasgow and Police Scotland will help ensure it is introduced as quickly as possible.
“Through our £250 million national mission, we are doing everything within our powers to tackle drug deaths in Scotland.
“With the number of deaths at the levels we are seeing, we are determined to use every means at our disposal as we face future challenges, including the increasing threat from synthetic opioids.”