The Scottish Government must urgently embark on a new drugs strategy after figures revealed deaths had doubled in the past decade.
Statistics released today showed there were 827 drug-related deaths in Scotland in 2016, an increase of almost a quarter from the previous year.
There were 17 drug-related deaths in Dumfries and Galloway in 2016, an increase of 54% on the previous years figure of 11 deaths.
The report said Scotland’s drugs death rate was now two-and-a-half times that of the rest of the UK.
And while the Scottish Government claimed last month it would “refresh” its drugs strategy, shadow health secretary Miles Briggs said that was not enough, and a full parliamentary review was needed.
Methadone, the substance prescribed by the NHS to get addicts off heroin, contributed to 42 per cent of the deaths, a new record.
And legal highs, or new psychoactive substances, were present in 286 of the fatalities recorded last year.
Males accounted for the majority of deaths, with 35 to 44 being the age group most affected.
Commenting, Galloway and West Dumfries MSP Finlay Carson said:
“These figures are nothing short of appalling.
“Every year hundreds of lives in Scotland are being wasted because of a drugs culture that’s been allowed to escalate out of control.
“The more than 50% rise in the number of drug related deaths in Dumfries and Galloway is hugely concerning.
“I am meeting with NHS Dumfries and Galloway chiefs this week and will be discussing what steps can be taken to get this under control.
“People will be stunned that the death rate in Scotland is more than twice that of the rest of the UK, and that poses some extremely tough questions for the Scottish Government.
“For decades now we’ve had a drugs policy that simply parks people on methadone programmes, offering them zero hope of ever beating addiction completely.
“Not only is that methadone leaving vulnerable individuals in limbo, but it’s killing hundreds of people too.
“The Scottish Conservatives want a change to get people out of a life of drug and substance addiction.
“Cuts to alcohol and drugs partnerships need to be reversed now, and people need more direct access to physical support.
“A strategy refresh won’t cut it. We need a full parliamentary review of drugs policy in Scotland.
“Holyrood can implement policies that make a real difference to people’s lives, yet those who have been marginalised and forgotten the most are drug users.
“These statistics must serve as an abrupt wake-up call for the SNP.”