Scottish drug deaths down by a fifth

There were 1,051 deaths as a result of drug misuse in Scotland last year, according to statistics released by National Records of Scotland. This represents a reduction of 21 per cent from the previous year.

The fall by almost 280 deaths from 2021 means 2022’s figure is the lowest since 2017. The number is still almost four times higher than in 2000, however.

Glasgow had the highest death rates alongside Dundee

Opiates and opioids – including methadone – were implicated in more than eight out of ten deaths, with the highest death rates in the Glasgow City and Dundee City areas. People in the country’s most deprived areas were almost 16 times more likely to die from drug misuse compared to people in the least deprived areas. The majority of deaths were classed as accidental poisonings, although seven per cent were recorded as intentional poisonings. While men were still twice as likely to die a drug-related death than women, the fall in deaths in 2022 was much larger for men than women.

‘While drug misuse deaths have been rising over the last two decades, with a particularly sharp increase after 2013, today’s statistics show the biggest year-on-year decrease since the series began,’ said head of demographic statistics at National Records of Scotland, Julie Ramsay. ‘The statistics provide some insight into the people who are most likely to die from drug misuse. The age profile of drug misuse deaths has become older over time – the average age of people who died from drug misuse deaths has increased from 32 in 2000 to 45 in 2022.’

Elena Whitham: Not underestimating scale of the challenge

‘While I am pleased to see that hundreds of families have been spared this agony and lives have been saved, every life lost is a tragedy and the number of deaths is still too high,’ said Scottish drugs minister Elena Whitham. ‘I will never underestimate the scale of the challenge we continue to face, including responding to new threats such as synthetic opioids and stimulant use.’

Kisten Horsburgh: ‘Alarm bells should be ringing… we are not prepared.’

Scotland had made an ‘inadequate response to the ongoing public health emergency’ and now faced the emerging threat of a drug supply containing dangerous new synthetic opioids, said a statement from the Scottish Drugs Forum (SDF). ‘This situation demands the urgent implementation of the full range of evidence-based practice and policy now,’ including monitoring changes in drug supply, including via drug checking services, maximising Scotland’s naloxone programme, implementing safer drug use facilities, widening access to treatment, and decriminalising possession.

‘Everyone seems to know that Scotland has an astonishing rate of drug-related deaths and that was before we saw this emerging trend of new synthetic opioids within the heroin supply,’ said CEO Kirsten Horsburgh. ‘Alarm bells should be ringing all over government and all through the treatment and support services because we are not prepared.’

Drug-related Deaths in Scotland in 2022, report and statistics here

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