HEALTH chiefs are to implement a raft of measures to help curb the number of drug deaths in the Forth Valley area.

NHS Forth Valley is hoping to provide greater support to those dealing with drug dependency.

Among the changes to be made is the provision of Buvidal – a long-acting medication used to treat those addicted to opioids, such as heroin or morphine.

More than 90 people in the Forth Valley are already prescribed with the medication, including a 50-year-old Clacks man, who insists the monthly injection has been a "life changer".

He said: "I became a drug user after I lost my daughter's mum in traumatic circumstance.

"For four years I was addicted to heroin and then for 20 years after I was hooked on methadone although I always managed to hold down a job.

"In August last year I went away to work in a hotel in the middle of nowhere.

"Buvidal was suggested to me by my support worker and it's given me a whole new lease of life.

"I gave up my Valium prescription when I went onto Buvidal and feel that if this had been available 20 years ago then there wouldn't perhaps have been as many deaths due to people mixing methadone with other drugs."

According to the latest figures from the National Records of Scotland, there were nine drug-related deaths in Clackmannanshire during 2020 and the number reached a peak of 15 the year before.

Of the nine deaths in 2020, eight involved the consumption of an opiate or opioid such as heroin or methadone, and seven involved "street" benzodiazepines – suggesting a mix of drugs was involved in a number of cases.

However, it is hoped the introduction of the long-acting medication by the health board, along with a one-stop-shop for faster access to treatment and an outreach team set up, will help reduce the number of future deaths.

Ross Cheape, NHS Forth Valley service manager for substance use services and service development, added: "Buvidal is a relatively new treatment for opiate dependence and our clinical teams in NHS Forth Valley have been at the forefront of its implementation.

"It isn't the right option for everyone, but the principle here is that patients have greater choice in treatment, and we are pleased to be able to deliver that."

Naloxone, an overdose reversal medication, is also being distributed across the area by pharmacies, harm reduction services, drug and alcohol services, mental health facilities and by peers within the Forth Valley Recovery Community.