Page last updated at 21:02 GMT, Wednesday, 25 March 2009

At a glance: alcohol and drugs

Syringe and whisky

Scotland has one of the worst records in Europe for drug and alcohol-related deaths. An Audit Scotland report says excessive drinking is the biggest killer and calls for a co-ordinated approach to tackling the problems. Here is a summary of the key findings:

Facts and figures

  • Drug and alcohol-related death rates are among the highest in Europe and have doubled in the last 15 years.
  • In 2007 there were 1,399 alcohol-related deaths in Scotland - three times more than the 355 drug-related deaths.
  • It is estimated that 4.9% of the Scottish population aged 16 and over are dependent on alcohol.
  • The estimated number of people aged between 15 and 54 misusing opiates such as heroin is 51,582, or 1.8% of Scotland's population.
  • The wider costs to society are estimated at £5bn a year, including costs associated with drug and alcohol-related crime, hospital admissions, and workplace absences.
  • People living in the poorest communities are around six times more likely to be admitted to hospital and to die due to alcohol misuse than those from the most affluent areas.
  • In 2007/08 the public sector spent £173m on drug and alcohol services in Scotland, £84m specifically on drug services and £30m on alcohol services.
  • Only 6% of direct spend during this period was on preventative activities.
  • The amount that NHS boards and councils spent on drug and alcohol services ranged from almost £14 per head of population in the Borders to just over £53 in Greater Glasgow and Clyde.

Key findings

  • Many different agencies including the NHS, councils, police and the prison service are involved in providing drug and alcohol services, making it difficult to plan appropriate services.
  • Spending decisions are not always based on evidence of what works or is needed in a particular area.
  • Funding for drug and alcohol services is complex and can be short term with money coming from a variety of sources, making long term planning difficult and increasing the administrative burden.
  • Differences in the way budgets are recorded and data collected make it difficult to give comprehensive figures for spending or quality of service.
  • Local monitoring of services generally focuses on numbers of people in a service and activity rather than on the quality of the service delivered or the outcomes achieved.
  • The Scottish Government has launched new strategies for drugs and alcohol in the last 12 months: The Road to Recovery - A new approach for tackling Scotland's drug problem in May 2008 and Changing Scotland's Relationship with Alcohol - A framework for action in March 2009. It plans to issue revised guidance on drug and alcohol partnerships in April 2009.

Recommendations

  • The Scottish Government should set clear national minimum standards for drug and alcohol services including their range, quality and accessibility; receive assurance that these standards are implemented in line with set timescales and ensure performance is regularly monitored and publicly reported.
  • Public sector bodies should ensure that all drug and alcohol services are based on an assessment of local need and that they are regularly evaluated to ensure value for money.


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