Drug deaths: digital hub launched

The Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh (the “College”) has launched a digital drug deaths hub which provides resources and further information for clinicians and allied health professionals who interact with people who use drugs.

The hub, which is the first to be launched by a Medical Royal College in the UK, is completely free to use and it includes video introductions and contributions from health experts in the drug deaths field, including experts in substance use and addiction medicine.

Professor Catriona Matheson, Professor in Substance Use and former Chair of the Drug Deaths Taskforce, has welcomed the hub. Professor Matheson said:

Scotland has an ongoing challenge to address the significant, entrenched problems associated with substance use and drug deaths in particular. There are signs of improvement but there’s much more to be done to be able to say we have turned this dreadful situation around. The work by the RCPE has been admirable. Their leadership and commitment to ensuring people are managed clinically appropriately as well as with dignity and care, and without judgement or stigmatisation is very welcome. The creation of this digital hub following the RCPE’s 2020 conference and subsequent report demonstrates lasting commitment.

The College has consistently called for swift action on drug deaths. This includes the introduction of safe consumption facilities and a heroin-assisted treatment programme in all major centres in Scotland, after a successful pilot scheme in Glasgow. In a report published in March 2021, the College requested that the Scottish Government and UK Government work closely together to design and introduce these policies, which could make a real difference for people who use drugs.

Speaking about Scotland’s drug deaths problem, Professor Roy Robertson, expert in addiction medicine at the University of Edinburgh said:

The drug deaths problem is of critical importance to the College, which recognises that one of the strategies to reduce this is education of medical personnel at all levels from undergraduates to senior practitioners. It’s important to understand that drug deaths are essentially a symptom of a bigger problem and are often the end point of a damaging process over many years. Understanding the journey from the start of drug use to a longer term disorder therefore becomes important in understanding prevention and helpful intervention.

Professor Angela Thomas, Director of Heritage at the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh, co-authored the introduction to the College’s report on drug deaths. Professor Thomas said:

The Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh has, since 2019, been actively working with key figures in government, social and medical services and those affected by drug use and drug deaths including people who use drugs and those close to them. It is clear that new, innovative approaches are required to tackle this problem and the College’s Drugs Death Digital Hub allows easy and free access to background information and comprehensive resources, including the College’s own report to address drug deaths.

Dr Saket Priyadarshi, Associate Medical Director and Senior Medical Officer at Glasgow Alcohol and Drug Recovery Services added:

The RCPE Drug Deaths Digital Hub is a welcomed and comprehensive new resource for anyone wanting to learn more about Scotland’s drug deaths crisis and approaches to turn the tide. It is particularly heartening to see the RCPE take this initiative as it reminds us that preventing drug deaths requires contributions from a huge range of services and professionals, including acute care and physicians. The hub will hopefully influence undergraduate and postgraduate medical training.


1. The digital drug deaths hub can be accessed here: https://learning.rcpe.ac.uk/course/view.php?id=1430