Antidepressants (Accidental Drug Deaths)

– in the Scottish Parliament on 21st June 2018.

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Photo of Michelle Ballantyne Michelle Ballantyne Conservative

5. Let us hope that this goes better, then.

To ask the First Minister what the Scottish Government’s response is to the recent report by ISD Scotland, which suggests that antidepressants are detected in nearly half of post-mortems involving accidental drug deaths. (S5F-02497)

Photo of Nicola Sturgeon Nicola Sturgeon Scottish National Party

The recent report was extremely helpful in allowing us to deepen our understanding of the issue. It is important that our actions are informed not only by which drugs are detected in those who die from drug misuse but by cases in which a drug is assessed as being implicated in the death. This week, ISD analysis showed that antidepressants were implicated in combination with other substances in 10 per cent of accidental drug-related deaths but that they were implicated in combination with other substances in 43 per cent of intentional drug-related deaths. That analysis of already-published data reinforces the point that large numbers of those who are most at risk often suffer from poor mental health. We are already working to develop better dual-diagnosis service arrangements for those suffering from substance misuse and mental health problems, because we know that the use of antidepressants alongside the use of opioids can bring additional risks.

Photo of Michelle Ballantyne Michelle Ballantyne Conservative

The right context to consider the difficult and nuanced question of how prescription drugs and illegal drugs are linked is the Scottish Government’s overall strategic approach to drugs. However, it is now almost a year since the Scottish Government promised a refresh of its drug strategy and I cannot find any sign of when it is coming. Can the First Minister give us a guarantee that the refreshed strategy will be published before we come back from summer recess?

The First Minister:

The forthcoming substance use strategy will be published shortly. I will ask the Cabinet Secretary for Health and Sport to write to the member when the date for that is known. The strategy will look at how services can adapt to find people most in need and then deliver services that address their specific circumstances. We have been clear that behaviours and culture around substance misuse have changed and that we think that services are not currently meeting the wide range of very complex health and social care needs of those who are most at risk. That is why it is right to take time to develop the strategy. I hope that, when it is published, the member will engage with it and, I hope, will be able to welcome it.