Scotland sees fall in injecting levels

The percentage of people assessed for drug treatment in Scotland who report that they are currently injecting is now 9 per cent, according to the latest figures from Public Health Scotland (PHS) – down from almost 30 per cent in 2006-07. 

scottish drug useThe figures, which are taken from the Scottish Drug Misuse Database statistics for 2020-21, also show that the number of initial assessments for specialist drug treatment fell to 7,938 from almost 11,000 the previous year, partly as a result of the impact of the COVID 19 pandemic on service provision. 

More than half of those assessed in 2020-21 were over 35, compared to less than a third in 2006-07, and as in previous years almost three quarters were male. However, the proportion of people reporting heroin as their main drug has fallen from almost two thirds to 35 per cent over the same period. The sharing of needles and syringes was reported by 4 per cent of people, a figure that has been largely unchanged since the start of the decade but is around a third of the level reported in 2006-07. 

The proportion of people reporting cocaine as their main drug, meanwhile, was 18 per cent, a percentage that has ‘increased sharply’ since 2015-16, albeit with a slight fall after 2019-20. 

Around two thirds of people assessed for drug treatment reported co-occurring health issues – of these, 66 per cent reported mental health issues, almost half reported physical issues and a quarter reported alcohol issues. 

Although there was an 8 per cent fall in suspected drug deaths in Scotland last year (DDN, April, page 5), the figures are from provisional police reports and are different from the official National Records of Scotland statistics compiled from death certificates and pathologists.

Scotland’s drug-related death toll of 1,339 in 2020 was the highest ever recorded for the seventh year in a row, and by far the highest in Europe. Police Scotland recently announced that it would be equipping its officers with naloxone across the whole country (DDN, March, page 4), with Scotland’s lord advocate confirming that police could now issue warnings for class A drugs – rather than automatic prosecution – as part of ongoing efforts to tackle the ‘public health emergency’ of drug-related deaths (DDN, October 2021, page 4). Alcohol-related deaths in Scotland also increased in 2020, despite lower alcohol sales as a result of the pandemic (DDN, March, page 4).

Scottish Drug Misuse Database: Overview of initial assessments for specialist drug treatment 2020/21 at

We value your input. Please leave a comment, you do not need an account to do this but comments will be moderated before they are displayed...