Drug-related deaths in Scotland 2017: How can pharmacy help?

Article by Fiona Raeburn, Immediate Past Chair, and Dr Carole Hunter, Current Chair, on behalf of the Scottish Specialist Pharmacists in Substance Misuse

This week the 2017 data for drug related deaths in Scotland was released.

The figures showed a further increase year on year.​ Sadly 934 people lost their lives. These deaths were preventable.

The Scottish Pharmacists in Substance Misuse group urge pharmacy staff across Scotland to think about the contact that they have with people who use drugs. Contact with community pharmacies in particular is often daily and presents opportunities to provide support, advice and encouragement as well as early warning signs that things are not going so well. The role of community pharmacists and the pharmacy team in dispensing instalment and supervised doses of methadone and buprenorphine is well established and recognised. However many community pharmnacies are also at the forefront in providing evidence based harm reduction interventions, including injecting equipment supply, take home naloxone and screening for BBVs. Is there anything that you and your pharmacy could do differently to minimise harm to patients, promote health and to reduce the risks of drug related death?

Building on the article that was published last year, if you have any ideas or suggestions on how you and your pharmacy service can contribute to reducing these preventable deaths, please get in touch with your local specialist pharmacist in substance misuse who would be delighted to hear your thoughts. The current secretary of the Scottish Pharmacists in Substance Misuse group can put you in touch with your local/nearest contact. You can email him at neil.cassells@nhs.net.

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