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Daily probe reveals number of patch drug deaths at all-time high

A regional daily’s investigation has revealed the number of drug-related deaths on its patch is at an all-time high.

The Dundee Evening Telegraph reported the “shocking” figures, which showed 72 had died from drugs in the past 12 months.

The investigation follows the paper’s revelation in October that 17 people in Dundee had died with a drug called etizolam, sometimes known as either ‘street’ or ‘fake’ valium, in their system in the previous six months.

After splashing on the investigation on Tuesday below, the Evening Telegraph also gave over its front page to the subject yesterday.

The Evening Telegraph splashed on the figures on Tuesday

The Evening Telegraph splashed on the figures on Tuesday

Assistant editor Bryan Copland told HTFP: “We didn’t expect the death toll to be so high. The annual drug-death tally normally hovers between 30 and 40 in the city, and was historically much lower than that – so for it to double inside a year is shocking.

“The response has been varied so far. We’ve had readers getting in touch to say that we’re being too soft on addicts in calling them ‘victims’ and telling us that the general public don’t care about those caught up by addiction; on the other hand, some feel our coverage is too harsh on addicts and only helps to build public resentment towards them.

“The same points were made when we ran [the 2015 front page], which went on to win a number of awards, and perhaps shows we’re managing to represent both points of view in our reporting.”

“Local recovery campaigners have been quite vocal throughout all of this and are happy to see the issue being given prominence in the media, even when presented in this hard-hitting way.

Bryan added: “From a journalist’s point of view, it was satisfying to see key health figures admitting that existing action to tackle drug deaths is failing – something they haven’t always been willing to admit in the past, but something they couldn’t really hide from any longer given our findings.

“Many of them are now involved in the setting up of Dundee Drug Misuse Commission, which is yet to reveal any specific goals, but is largely designed to reduce these drug death stats.”

Yesterday's follow-up splash

Yesterday’s follow-up splash