The number of drug-related deaths in Ayrshire has dropped to its lowest level since 2017, according to police statistics.

Police Scotland recently released its quarterly report, which looks at current trends in suspected drug deaths in Scotland. 

According to the figures, there were 83 deaths in Ayrshire last year, which was down from 93 in 2022.

Last year saw the lowest Ayrshire total since 2017, when 74 suspected drug deaths were recorded.

Since 2017, a total of 707 drug-related deaths have been recorded in the area.

Despite the drop in suspected deaths, Ayrshire MSPs are calling on more work to be done to tackle the issue and support people with addictions.

Labour South Scotland MSP Colin Smyth said: “This tragic news has revealed the continuing human cost of over a decade of government failure to tackle Scotland’s drugs crisis.

“Even one death is one too many, but sadly every year far more people are losing their life far too early.  We must not forget that these figures represent real people, with real families and friends who are mourning their loss.

“There is no single solution to bring down drugs deaths. We need a joined up approach but that must include properly supported rehabilitation and treatment services.

“Delaying action to tackle drug deaths has fatal consequences – it is time for the government realise that the current policies don’t go far enough to end this health crisis.”

Ayr Advertiser: MSP Colin Smyth.MSP Colin Smyth. (Image: NQ Archive)

Fellow South Scotland MSP Sharon Dowey, of the Scottish Conservatives, welcomed the news that there had been a drop in figures for 2023, but said there is still work to be done.

Ms Dowey said: "Scotland is the drug deaths capital of Europe, and that has to change – and the only way this will change is if the SNP take this issue seriously and back our Right to Recovery Bill.

“Organisations like River Garden at Auchincruive do a great job at supporting those in the early stages of drug addiction and their work will have undoubtedly contributed to a drop in drug deaths here in Ayrshire.

“I want to see drug deaths fall even lower in Ayrshire next year and see improvements right across Scotland. The SNP Government needs to back our Bill and support charities like River Garden if that’s to be achieved.”

The largest number of drug deaths in Ayrshire in a single three-month period since the start of 2017 was 44, recorded in January-March 2019.

Last year saw 26 suspected drug-related deaths recorded from January to March, 13 from April-June, 19 from July-September and 25 from October-December.

For every year since 2020, the largest quarterly drug death total in Ayrshire has been recorded in the months of January, February and March.

Ayr Advertiser: MSP Sharon Dowey pictured at Cumnock police station.MSP Sharon Dowey pictured at Cumnock police station. (Image: MSP Sharon Dowey)

Drugs and alcohol policy minister Christina McKelvie has said that work will be done alongside the First Minister to provide more support.

Ms McKelvie said: “Drug deaths in Scotland are still too high and every life lost is a tragedy. I am focused on working across Government, Parliament and beyond, to reduce deaths and improve lives.

“This week, the First Minister and I will hold a roundtable on drugs and alcohol to drive forward vital partnership working.

“Through our £250 National Mission on Drugs, we’re taking a wide range of measures and National Mission funds have now backed more than 300 grassroots projects.

"We’ll continue to expand residential rehabilitation capacity and drive MAT standards."

Ayr Advertiser: Drugs and Alcohol Policy Minister Christina McKelvie said work will be done.Drugs and Alcohol Policy Minister Christina McKelvie said work will be done. (Image: PA)

The drugs and alcohol minister added: "We're also committed to delivering drug-checking facilities. This year, we’re made a record £112 million available to local alcohol and drug partnerships. 

“We are working hard to respond to the growing threat posed by super-strong synthetic opioids and, in particular the increased appearance of nitazenes in an increasingly toxic and unpredictable drug supply.

"These are being found in a range of substances and bring with them increased risks of overdose, hospitalisation and death.

"Because they are many times stronger than opioids like heroin, I would urge people to carry extra life-saving naloxone kits.”