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Drug-related deaths in Scotland hit record high

706 people died as a result of drug abuse in Scotland last year, statistics show

Ingrid Torjesen

Thursday, 18 August 2016

A total of 706 people died as a result of drug abuse in Scotland last year - the highest number ever recorded, official statistics show.

The report 'Drug-related Deaths in Scotland in 2015' from the National Records of Scotland says that there were 93 (15%) more deaths in 2015 than in 2014, and that the figure was more than double the figure for 2005 (which was 336).

The statistics also show that, in 2015, more than two thirds of drug-related deaths (69%) occurred in men. There were 249 drug-related deaths of people aged 35-44 (35% of all drug-related deaths), 183 deaths of 45-54 year olds (26%) and 163 drug-related deaths in the 25-34 age-group (23%).

The NHS Board areas which had most of the 706 drug-related deaths in 2015 were: Greater Glasgow and Clyde with 221 (31%); followed by Lothian with 100 (14%); Lanarkshire with 73 (10%); Grampian with 69 (10%); and Tayside with 63 (9%).

For Scotland as a whole, the average of 602 drug-related deaths per year represented a death rate of 0.11 per 1,000 population, and the NHS Board area with the highest rate was Greater Glasgow and Clyde (0.16), followed by Tayside (0.12).

In 2015, one or more opiates or opioids (including heroin/morphine and methadone) were implicated in, or potentially contributed to, 606 deaths (86%) – higher than in any previous year. Heroin and/or morphine potentially contributed to 345 deaths (49% of the total) – also more than in any previous year – and methadone to 251 deaths (36%) – fewer than its peak (275 in 2011), but more than in any of the previous three years.

In terms of other drugs, benzodiazepines were potentially implicated in 191 deaths, cocaine in 93 deaths, ecstasy-type drugs in 15 deaths, amphetamines in 17 deaths, and alcohol in 107 deaths.

New psychoactive substances (NPS) - previously known as "legal highs" - potentially contributed to 74 deaths in 2015, up from 62 in 2014; but just three of them were believed to have been caused by NPSs alone.

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