New figures that reveal suspected drug death numbers for the first six months of 2021 are “a tragedy”, according to South Scotland MSP Colin Smyth.

According to the statistics released last week, Dumfries and Galloway saw 26 suspected drug deaths between January and June 2021, compared to 29 for the whole of 2020.

Ayrshire recorded 60 drug related deaths between January and June, while the Lothians and Scottish Borders combined saw 48. There were 67 drug related deaths in Lanarkshire.

Previous figures released in August showed that more than 1,300 people died of drug misuse in Scotland in 2020, with the country seeing a record number of deaths for the seventh year in a row. The annual figures showed that there were 1,339 drug deaths last year – an increase of 75 from the 1,264 recorded the previous year.

Commenting on the latest figures, Colin Smyth said: “Every single drug death across our region and beyond is a tragedy.

“We should never forget that behind each of these figures is a person whose life has been cut far too short.

“It’s not good enough just to hear the Scottish Government express regret every time new figures are published, we need action. Cuts in funding for rehab a few years ago are taking a heavy toll, and just with any disease, we urgently need to see more investment to treat people.

“Of course, current drug laws should be looked at but we should not forget that Scotland has the same laws as the rest of the UK but three and a half times the rate of drug deaths.

“Ultimately, unless we tackle the underlying causes of this disease such as poverty, poor housing, and the shocking education attainment gap, then we will fail to get to grips with this growing crisis.”

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