THE number of suspected drug-related deaths has slightly decreased in the region, according to the latest figures from Police Scotland.

Across the Forth Valley Division, which includes Clackmannanshire, there were 12 suspected drug-related deaths between October and December 2023, bringing the year's total to 49 – statistics released this month show.

The 2023 figure does represent an around 10 per cent decrease, down from 54 the year before and opposing a national trend, which has instead seen a 10 per cent increase.

And while the figure has been on a downward trajectory in the Forth Valley since 2020, when 84 suspected drug deaths were recorded, it is still above the 43 shown for 2017, when records began.

Ten of the 54 Forth Valley deaths in 2022 occurred in the Wee County with 2023 statistics for local authorities not yet available.

In Clacks, the figure, based on National Records of Scotland statistics, has been moving between five and 15 over the last decade.

Across Scotland, there were 1,197 suspected drug deaths in 2023 – 105 more than in 2022 and following a decline in recent years.

Clackmannanshire and Dunblane SNP representative MSP Keith Brown explained that whatever the causes, “any death from drugs in one death too many” and highlighted a range of ways the Scottish Government is looking to address to problem.

On the other hand, regional Conservative representative MSP Alexander Stewart said the figures are remaining “stubbornly constant” in the Forth Valley and that it is “an absolute disgrace that no great inroads have been made”.

Mr Stewart said: “We have to remember, however, that these are not merely numbers; each one is an individual human being and someone’s relative, friend and loved one, which is an absolute disgrace that no great inroads have been made.

“For a long time, Scotland has remained the highest in Europe regarding drug deaths, which also continue to disproportionately affect those in the most deprived areas.

“This scandal is Scotland’s national shame and we cannot go on like this, as lives are being lost and families are being torn apart.

“The Scottish Conservatives believe that a different approach is needed to help people suffering from addictions.

“The SNP Government must listen to frontline experts and back our Right to Recovery Bill, which would guarantee treatment for those most in need.”

It is not clear whether the rising dangers of synthetic opioids had a part to play in the figure increasing nationally, but it is understood a crackdown on opium in Afghanistan by the Taliban has had a significant impact on the global supply, increasing demand for laboratory-created substances such as fentanyl.

MSP Keith Brown said: “The Scottish Government is providing £50million a year to community and grass-roots organisations that help people in their local areas who are suffering from substance abuse and addiction.

“There has been an expansion of residential rehab services and a range of other actions are being put in place such as the medication assisted treatment standards and the rollout of naloxone being carried by first responders.

“The problem of drug misuse in Scottish society is deep-rooted and insidious.

“On top of that, we are seeing more potent and more addictive substances, such as synthetic opioids, having a negative impact.

“There are no easy answers in this but, whatever the causes, any death from drugs is one death too many.”