NICOLA Sturgeon has said she wants to see a significant fall in the number of lives “wasted” by drugs, as it was announced firefighters are to start carrying a life-saving spray which can reverse the effects of an overdose.

The First Minister visited Bathgate community fire station in West Lothian to speak to crews there about the move, which will see the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service (SFRS) join the Scottish Ambulance Service and Police Scotland in offering staff training on how to use the naloxone nasal spray.

Those who volunteer to carry the treatment will be trained on how to identify the signs of an overdose as part of a £90,000 scheme funded by the Scottish Government.

Ministers hope steps like this will help cut the number of drugs deaths, after the country saw a record 1339 fatalities in 2020.

Sturgeon said the naloxone spray, which can reverse an opioid overdose, was a “potentially life saving drug”.

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She added: “It is a part of the overall approach we have taken to reduce the unacceptable toll that drugs have taken in Scotland and the number of deaths that are caused by drugs.

“We already have naloxone being used by the police [and] by the ambulance service. The Fire and Rescue Service initiative is an important addition to that.

“Of course, ultimately, we want to see naloxone kits widely available to people, to families of people who are drug users, for example, because it’s easy to administer and it can be the difference between life and death.”

Her comments came as she insisted the Scottish Government was “doing the right things” to deal with the country’s drugs crisis.

Sturgeon said: “Obviously, naloxone is one of those things, but not the only, trying to speed up the access to treatment for people who need drugs treatments, the improvement and expansion of community services, and obviously work around prevention trying to stop people from using drugs in the first place.

“So that is a whole package of measures that are being taken.

“The whole point of this is to see a reduction and I want to see a significant reduction in the lives that are lost and are wasted to drugs, but we recognise it’s going to take time.”

READ MORE: We must not rush critical efforts to tackle the drug death crisis

She said the most recent figures, covering 2021, showed “a very, very slight reduction” in deaths, as she stressed that “this is a programme that we are focused on”.

She said the Scottish Government had put “significant investment” into tackling the problem, and that Angela Constance, the dedicated drugs policy minister, reports directly to her.

Sturgeon was clear: “What we have seen in recent years in Scotland in the form of drugs deaths is not acceptable.

“It’s not acceptable to me, to the Government and it shouldn’t be acceptable to anybody across the country so we are determined to turn that around.”

SFRS group commander, Paul Blackwood, told how he volunteered to carry naloxone because his best friend, when he was a teenager, died from a drugs overdose.

He stated: “I grew up in Glasgow and I lost my best friend at the age of 19 from a drugs overdose.

“This traumatic experience has stayed with me and so it was important for me to volunteer to carry naloxone.

“I have the kit because I want to be in a position to save someone’s life.”

Assistant chief officer, Stuart Stevens, from SFRS, said: “We welcome funding from the Scottish Government to provide life-saving medication for some of the most vulnerable people in our communities.

“We will fully support volunteers within SFRS to complete training to safely administer naloxone to help prevent avoidable drug deaths from overdoses.

“This project highlights our commitment to working with partners to improve the safety and wellbeing of the people of Scotland.”