Deaths from Drugs,Alcohol and Suicide in Scotland are a public health emergency

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We are all losing friends, family members and colleagues to addictions and suicide. In Scotland in 2017, 934 people died from drug use related causes, 1,235 people died from alcohol related causes and 680 people died from suicide. This is not acceptable.

While these deaths represent only the tip of the iceberg of our collective distress, so many more people are living lives of quiet desperation and mental distress; society and services are struggling to respond. We believe that many of the major health challenges we face are, in fact, not separate issues but different manifestations of the same thing. Many of us are deeply unhappy.

We are numbing our distress with alcohol and drugs. Overwhelmed emotional and physical coping mechanisms result in mental and physical health problems. Quiet desperation is often soothed with smoking and overeating. We are neither criminals nor weak minded; we are humans having a very human response to the growing tragedy of personal traumas exacerbated by poverty, alienation from power, and disconnection in the community.

Current responses from health boards and government are all necessary; it is necessary to have treatment, support and rehabilitative services available to all. But current responses are not sufficient, we believe, to reduce the scale of losses we are experiencing. Keeping these major issues separate and dealing with them on an individual level only has not reduced the deaths, despite many well-intentioned efforts on the parts of Government, Health Boards, Charities and Community Groups.

Its time to deal with these public health challenges together and consider them as symptoms of a deeper distress. We are asking Health Boards and Scottish Government declare these deaths a public health emergency or take other steps to allow a more far-reaching inquiry into what’s going wrong and to take action.