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Health / Help available for those concerned about substance use, drug development officer says

AN ALCOHOL and drug development officer at NHS Shetland says help is at hand for anyone struggling with substance use.

It comes after new figures showed there were four drug-related deaths in Shetland last year, which was an increase from two in 2019.

Development officer Wendy McConnachie said the figures were “absolutely tragic”.

“It’s important to remember these are not just figures, they are people who are loved,” she added.

“They are mums and dads, sons and daughters.”

Wendy McConnachie.

On Friday Shetland MSP Beatrice Wishart said there should be no stigma attached to addiction – “but it is hard to get the support and treatment needed when budgets to critical support services have been cut”.

People struggling are encouraged to contact their GP, McConnachie said, the substance misuse recovery service at Lerwick Health Centre on 01595 743006 or the Recovery Hub and Community Network in Pitt Lane via 01595 744402.

Harm reduction advice can also be found at

McConnachie said Shetland continues to have low rates of drug related deaths compared to the rest of Scotland – “however, Scotland itself compares poorly to the rest of Europe, therefore our figures are not wholly positive”.

“We do have to treat the statistics with caution though, as it is difficult to draw comparison between national and local data when our numbers are generally so small,” she added.

“One death is still one death too many.”

McConnachie also looked to highlight the increase in deaths where ‘street’ benzodiazepines and cocaine are implicated.

“Street Benzos often do not contain what they are purported to contain and they can vary hugely in strength,” she said.

“These drugs also stay in your system for quite some time, increasing the risk of overdose.

“Cocaine use is increasing across the country and as it becomes more normalised, there is a danger that it is viewed as safe. People should avoid mixing drugs, including alcohol.”

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She also raised awareness of Naloxone, which is a medicine that temporarily reverses the effects of an opioid overdose.

“Anyone can carry and administer naloxone,” McConnachie said. “If you are a person who uses opioids, or you come into contact with people who do, carrying naloxone could save a life.”

It is available from the substance misuse recovery service at Lerwick Health Centre and the Recovery Hub and Community Network in Pitt Lane.

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