Scottish annual drug deaths coming down from record levels

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Heroin was one of the top killers

New figures from the Registrar General for Scotland show 2010 saw 485 drug-linked deaths, down 11% from 545 in 2009. Although the third-highest number recorded, the highest and second-highest levels were in 2008 and 2009 respectively. 2008's record was 574 deaths.

Over 50% of drug-connected deaths last year involved heroin or morphine. 174 were linked to heroin substitute methadone, benzodiazepines to 154, alcohol to 127, cocaine to 33 and amphetamines to three. Nobody was killed by ecstacy. One in four involved a woman, with 33% of the dead aged between 25 and 34.

"These figures represent 485 lives lost to families and communities across Scotland and while I welcome the news of a further decrease, any death is one too many," according to Community Safety Minister Roseanna Cunningham. The Scottish Government says the drop means efforts to curb drug fatalities are making progress, with the introduction of opiate poisoning remedy naloxone being credited.

Naloxone kits and training are being given to communities and the the prison service. The government is spending £28.6 million tackling drug use.

Though the national levels have dropped, some areas have a different story. Lanarkshire, Lothian, and Ayrshire and Arran saw increased numbers. Scottish Drugs Forum director noted "If you look at the rate of drug-related deaths among the drug using population, Scotland has similar rates to our European neighbours. But if you look at the rate of drug-related deaths compared to the overall population, Scottish people are seven times more likely to die from a drug-related death than their European counterparts."

Critics claim the figures should include deaths from hepatitis C contracted as a result of drug use.