Alcohol treatment programmes cut by 40% as drink-related death toll rises

By Lucy Ashton

The number of Scots receiving treatment for problem drinking has fallen by a massive 40 per cent in eight years – at the same time as the number of alcohol-related deaths has reached a 14-year high.

Figures obtained by the Scottish Conservatives reveal that just 19,617 accessed alcohol treatment programmes in 2021/22 compared to 32,556 in 2013/14.

They come after official figures published last month showed there were 1,276 deaths as a result of alcohol misuse in Scotland in 2022 – the highest fatality toll since 2008.

The stats – contained in a written answer from Elena Whitham, the minister for drug and alcohol policy – have been branded “a shameful reflection of the SNP’s mishandling of Scotland’s alcohol crisis” by Scottish Conservative MSP Miles Briggs, who submitted the question.

 Elena Whitham, minister for drug and alcohol policy and Conservative MSP Miles Briggs.

He added that the “deeply alarming figures” underlined the need for the Right to Recovery Bill, which would enshrine in law the right of everyone with a drug or alcohol problem to receive the treatment they need.

Scottish Conservative Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Social Security, Housing and Equalities Miles Briggs MSP, said: “It is a shameful reflection of the SNP’s mishandling of Scotland’s alcohol crisis that the number of people accessing treatment programmes has been slashed at the same time as the number dying due to problem drinking has soared.

“It’s impossible to avoid the conclusion that these two sets of stats are interlinked.

“It beggars belief that SNP ministers would allow treatment places to be dramatically cut when alcohol death rates are at a 14-year high.

“They admitted that they took their eye off the ball on drug deaths – increasingly it seems they have again on deaths by alcohol.

“And we know, as with Scotland’s drugs-death emergency, it’s those Scots living in the most deprived areas who are most at risk from the lack of necessary support.

“These deeply alarming figures reinforce the need for the SNP to get behind the Right to Recovery Bill now.

“This legislation, which has the backing of experts, charities and those with lived experience, would ensure that every Scot can access the potentially life-saving treatment they need to tackle their addiction to alcohol or drugs.”

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