There were 722 suspected drug deaths in Scotland during the first six months of 2021, according to provisional figures from the Scottish Government – nine fewer than during the same period last year.
Almost 70 per cent of the deaths were of people aged 35-54, and men accounted for 72 per cent of fatalities, compared to 76 per cent in the corresponding period in 2020.
The figures have been released just two months after 2020’s official statistics, which showed a record total of 1,339 deaths – up 5 per cent on the previous year. Scotland’s drug death rate is almost three times higher than it was a decade ago and remains the highest in Europe, while alcohol-specific deaths in the country also rose by almost 20 per cent between 2019 and 2020.
The new provisional figures show deaths that the police suspect involved illicit drugs, rather than the annual National Records of Scotland statistics that use data from death registration records and forensic pathologists. However, the Scottish Government has stated that it will now release provisional figures every quarter following criticism that 2019’s figures were not released until the end of 2020. The next Suspected drug deaths in Scotland report will be published in December, covering deaths from June to September.
‘Once again these figures are appalling,’ said drugs policy minister Angela Constance. ‘We are taking a vast range of actions to tackle this public health emergency, and we recognise the hard work and challenges ahead. More regular reporting of data on drug death trends in Scotland will ensure everyone involved in our national mission remains focussed on the work we must do to get more people into the treatment that is best suited for them as quickly as possible. The £250m we are investing in tackling this public health emergency will make a difference. I am working to ensure it reaches front-line services as quickly as possible and that every single penny will count as we continue to prioritise our efforts to turn this crisis around.’
Suspected drug deaths in Scotland: April to June 2021 at www.gov.scot