Suspected Scottish drug deaths up by 10 per cent

There were 1,197 suspected drug deaths in Scotland last year, according to police figures – a 10 per cent increase on 2022.

Almost three quarters of the deaths were among men, 14 per cent up on the previous year, while deaths among women fell by 1 per cent. Two thirds of the deaths were among people aged between 35 and 54.  

The Police Scotland data is based on reports from the observations and enquiries of officers attending scenes of death, and are distinct from the official figures published by National Records of Scotland, which are based on death certificates and supplementary information from forensic pathologists. The police divisions with the greatest number of suspected drug fatalities were Greater Glasgow, Lanarkshire and Edinburgh City. 

Scotland’s drug death total for 2022 was down by a fifth on the previous year, but was still almost four times higher than in 2000. The provisional figures for 2023, however, suggest that the confirmed statistics due to be published in the summer will show that ‘Scotland’s public health emergency continues’, said the Scottish Drugs Forum (SDF). 

SDF CEO Kirsten Horsburgh
SDF CEO Kirsten Horsburgh

‘This is the latest sign that our response to this emergency has been inadequate’ said CEO Kirsten Horsburgh. ‘We have made progress, but there is a long way to go and what we need is a consistent and national approach. Full implementation of the Medication Assisted Treatment Standards would be a basis for moving forward. However, what we are witnessing and hearing from people using services suggests there is some way to go. 

We need to broaden treatment to address the needs of people experiencing harms related to cocaine, benzodiazepines and other drugs. People need to be empowered to make choices in terms of their treatment and their support. Our immediate concern is with local funding decisions. This is not a time to cut core services or commissioned services that treat or otherwise support people at risk.’

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