EAST Lothian saw a rise in the number of drug deaths last year, new figures have shown.

The National Records of Scotland has released the drug death figures for Scotland during 2021.

And while nationally there was a slight fall in the numbers compared to 2020, East Lothian saw a slight rise.

In East Lothian, which saw drug deaths fall in 2020 to 14 compared to 18 the previous two years running, the number of fatalities crept back up, with 16 deaths recorded in 2021.

Out of the 16, 15 were described as accidental and 13 involved heroin or morphine in the person’s system.

Seven of those who died in East Lothian had methadone in their system, while eight had cocaine and only one had consumed alcohol.

'Extremely saddening'

Paul McLennan, East Lothian’s MSP, described the current situation as “unacceptable”.

He told the Courier: “I want to first of all extend my deepest condolences to everyone impacted by the lives lost to drugs in East Lothian over the last year.

“It is extremely saddening to hear of the rise in our county.

“These latest statistics show that the situation remains unacceptable.

“Nationally, I am pleased to see the slight decrease.

“However, over the next year, I hope to see the benefits of investment into new services reaching East Lothian as Scotland continues to improve and save lives.”

'The war on drugs is a failure'

Kenny MacAskill, MP for the county, described every death as “a tragedy”.

Mr MacAskill added: “No one chooses a life of addiction and the heartache in life is matched by death for family.

“The war on drugs is a failure.

“This is a public health crisis and treatment and support is what’s needed.

“Westminster drug laws need changed but the Scottish Government need some courage and must do more.”

An East Lothian Health & Social Care Partnership spokesperson said: “Each one of these deaths represents a tragic loss of life, and our condolences go out to the families and friends involved.

“East Lothian Health & Social Care Partnership, through its alliance with Mid & East Lothian Drugs (MELD), proactively continue to tackle substance abuse across the county by working with individuals, their families, partner agencies and the third sector.

“Drug use is not isolated. MELD assists individuals by addressing housing needs, family support and providing person-centred treatment alongside education, training and employment opportunities.

“Regrettably, a significant number of these deaths were people who were not in contact with treatment services at the time of their death and therefore East Lothian Health & Social Care Partnership continues to look at improving access to treatment and recovery services which includes:

  • A direct contact service;
  • Assertive outreach into GP practices for those most at risk;
  • Advocacy services;
  • Increased support to families and loved ones;
  • Embedding and implementing the MAT Standards, including increasing choice of treatment;
  • Council and community rollout of Naloxone;
  • Developing a new out-of-hours provision;
  • Recovery Cafes – Musselburgh and Dunbar with plans for Prestonpans and Tranent;
  • Recovery College;
  • SMART Recovery Groups;
  • Youth and community initiatives;
  • New innovation fund;
  • Linking in with third sector organisations;
  • Continue to provide phones, top-ups and tablets to help people get or stay connected.

“If you are affected by drug misuse or are caring for someone who is, help is available.

“Call East Lothian Substance Use Service on 0131 446 4853 or Mid and East Lothian Drugs (MELD) on 07843 339 958 for more information or visit our website at meldap-recovery.co.uk