The newly operational Rapid Action Drug Alerts and Response (RADAR) programme, led by Public Health Scotland (PHS), published its first report today, which provides a snapshot of drug use and trends across Scotland.

The publication presents a range of indicators from a variety of sources, which monitor changes in drug trends, testing and the use of services to inform actions that reduce drug-related harm. These include data on drug-related hospitalisations, suspected drug-related deaths, treatment referrals, toxicology results and more.

The RADAR initiative has been developed in collaboration with a range of partners, including people with lived experience of substance use, and allows national data to be combined with information from healthcare, prison, police and toxicology services, alongside reports from organisations that support people who use drugs and the public.

Dr Tara Shivaji, Consultant at Public Health Scotland, said:

“Drug-related deaths in Scotland are the highest in Europe. The Rapid Action Drug Alerts and Response programme takes a whole-system approach to gather and disseminate intelligence nationally on harms, which is critical to informing rapid action to reduce harm and save lives.

“It allows us to develop a much-needed picture of drug use and harms across the country, providing a structured way to quickly identify emerging risks so that evidence-based interventions can be developed and deployed.

“Much of the harm associated with drug use in Scotland occurs as the result of using two or more drugs at the same time. When substances are tested, they often contain other ingredients and the amount of the actual drug can be variable.

“All drug use has risks. For people who use drugs, not using alone and ‘starting low and going slow’ – that is taking a small dose and leaving time between doses - are ways to reduce those risks.”

Further information on RADAR can be found in a PHS blog post, also published today, by Vicki Craik, Public Health Intelligence Adviser and lead of the RADAR initiative at Public Health Scotland, where she explains how the system works and the impact it seeks to have.

For more information or harm reduction advice on drugs and where to seek help, please visit NHS inform.

The RADAR Quarterly Report can be found here.

Last updated: 12 October 2022