1,187 drug-deaths in 2018: up 27% in a year

National Statistics publication for Scotland.

There were 1,187 drug-related deaths registered in Scotland in 2018, 253 (27%) more than in 2017, according to figures released today by the National Records of Scotland (NRS). This is the largest number of drug-related deaths in Scotland since the series began in 1996, and more than double the figure for 2008 (574).

These statistics are contained in “Drug-related Deaths in Scotland in 2018”, which also reveals that:

• males accounted for 72% of the drug-related deaths in 2018
• there were 442 drug-related deaths of people aged 35-44 (37% of all drug-related deaths), 345 deaths in the 45-54 age-group (29%) and 217 drug-related deaths of 25-34 year olds (18%)
• the NHS Board areas with the most drug-related deaths in 2018 were:

 - Greater Glasgow & Clyde – 394 (33%);
 - Lothian – 152 (13%);
 - Lanarkshire – 130 (11%); and
 - Tayside – 109 (9%)

• opiates or opioids, such as heroin, morphine and methadone, were implicated in, or potentially contributed to, 1,021 deaths (86% of the total number in 2018). Benzodiazepines such as diazepam and etizolam were implicated in, or potentially contributed to, 792 deaths (67%)
• Scotland’s figures imply a drug-death rate that is nearly three times that of the UK as a whole. It is also higher than that reported for any other EU country. (However, countries differ in how deaths are recorded and coded, and there may be under-reporting in some cases– see Annex G of the publication)

NRS also published statistics of deaths in Scotland which were caused by volatile substances (which have recently averaged around a dozen deaths per year), and deaths by helium.

Notes To Editors

1. National Records of Scotland (NRS) is responsible for producing statistics of Scotland’s population, including the numbers of births, marriages and civil partnerships, and deaths from various causes.
2. The full ‘Drug-related Deaths’ publication, including figures for NHS Boards and local authority areas, is available from the NRS website .
3. The statistics were produced using a definition of “drug-related deaths” which is described in Annex A of the publication.
4. Section 3.3 of the publication gives the numbers of drug-related deaths for which certain drugs (or types of drug) were implicated in, or potentially contributed to, the cause. For example: heroin and/or morphine (537 deaths, or 45% of the total); methadone (560 deaths, 47%); diazepam and other ‘prescribable’ benzodiazepines (238 deaths, 20%); etizolam and other ‘street’ benzodiazepines (675 deaths, 57%); gabapentin and/or pregabalin (367 deaths, 31%) and cocaine (273 deaths, 23%). Such percentages add up to more than 100 because, for many deaths, more than one drug was implicated in, or contributed to, the cause.
5. Annex E of the publication provides information about deaths which involved so-called New Psychoactive Substances (NPSs), including their definition for the purposes of these figures. On that basis, in 2018, there were 575 deaths for which NPSs were implicated in, or potentially contributed to, the cause of death. Almost all (572) of those deaths are counted in the total of 1,187 drug-related deaths (either because the NPS was controlled under the Misuse of Drugs Act or because other controlled substances were present in the body). Only nine were believed to have been caused by NPSs alone.
6. Annex G’s comparison with the figures for individual EU countries uses the drug-death rate for people aged 15-64. It also has a separate comparison with the drug-death rate per head of population for the UK as a whole.
7. Statistics of deaths caused by volatile substances and by helium, including breakdowns by age-group and sex, for the years from 2000 to 2018, are available from the ‘Deaths’ part of the NRS website.
8. Official statistics are produced by professionally independent statistical staff. General information about NRS's statistics can be found in the About our Statistics section of its website.

Media enquiries about statistics of deaths caused by drugs, volatile substances and helium should be made to:
Frank Dixon of National Records of Scotland
Direct line: 0131 314 4229
Email: Frank.Dixon@nrscotland.gov.uk

Media enquiries about other matters (e.g. Scottish Government policies, the laws on drugs and their enforcement, etc) should be made to:
Suzi Mair and Suzanne Hart of Scottish Government Communications
Direct lines: 0131 244 3400 and 0131 244 2975
Email: Suzi.Mair@gov.scot and Suzanne.Hart@gov.scot

Further information about the statistics is available from:
Statistics Customer Services,
National Records of Scotland
Ladywell House, Ladywell Road,
Edinburgh EH12 7TF
Tel: 0131 314 4299
E-mail: StatisticsCustomerServices@nrscotland.gov.uk

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