CAMPAIGNERS are calling for a radical new approach to treatment of drug addicts in a bid to reduce the number of lives being lost.

The Scottish Drugs Forum (SDF) wants addicts to be prescribed heroin, as the most recent figures show the number of drug deaths in both Renfrewshire and East Renfrewshire is on the rise.

Over the past decade, drug fatalities in Renfrewshire have almost doubled, with East Renfrewshire’s total up by a third.

The annual average for Renfrewshire has risen from 15 to 28, while East Renfrewshire’s figure has jumped from three to five.

Across Scotland as a whole, a total of 934 drug-related deaths were recorded last year. This represents the highest total since statistics began in 1996.

And experts at the SDF, which describes itself as “an independent centre of expertise on drug use and drug problems,” have warned the total will “almost certainly” top 1,000 in 2018.

Now the group has launched a new campaign – #StopTheDeaths – to raise awareness of the increasing toll of deaths from drug abuse.

David Liddell, SDF chief executive, said: “From speaking to our members across Scotland, it is clear that the number of drug-related deaths continues to rise at what now seems an exponential rate.

“This means that, in 2018, Scotland will almost certainly suffer over 1,000 preventable overdose deaths.”

He said the #StopTheDeaths campaign, which will provide free courses allowing people to recognise and reverse an opiate overdose, was “a call to refocus our actions and to draw attention to evidence-based approaches and protective factors that can be deployed now.”

Mr Liddell added: “These include improving access to take-home naloxone, ensuring people have swift access to, and are retained in, treatment in high-quality services, and providing a range of opiate replacement therapies tailored to the needs of individuals, including heroin-assisted treatment.”

Public Health Minister Joe Fitzpatrick said addressing drug-related deaths is a “priority” for the government.

He added: “That is why our new combined drug and alcohol strategy, publishing later this year, will focus on how we engage those most at risk and how services can adapt to help people most in need and best deliver support.”

For more information about the campaign, visit