Deaths in older age group continue to increase.
New Statistics released today show that Scotland’s drug-related deaths continue to particularly affect an ageing group of drug users.
The National Records of Scotland publication shows the over-35 age group accounted for 73% of the number of deaths in 2015, up from 67% in 2014. The median age at time of death has also risen from 40 to 41 years old.
The total number of drug deaths has risen by 15% between 2014 and 2015 - from 613 to 706.
The number of people dying from a drug-related death in the under 24 year old age bracket has fallen from 47 (8% of number of deaths in 2014) to 30 (4% of number of deaths in 2015).
These statistics show that that the health risks faced by an ageing cohort of drug users remain a key challenge for Scotland.
Commenting on the findings, Aileen Campbell, Minister for Public Health and Sport, said:
“Each one of these deaths is a personal tragedy for the family and friends involved, and I would like to offer my sincere sympathy to anyone affected by the loss of someone who has died as a result of drug use.
“However, these figures show that we have an ageing group of drug users who are experiencing increasingly poor health. This is a legacy of Scotland’s drug misuse which stretches back decades.
“To address this we have funded research to investigate the issues associated with older drug users through the Scottish Drugs Forum. We have also achieved significant reductions in treatment times for those needing treatment for their drug problem.
“We remain committed to tackling the scourge of illegal drugs and the damage they do to our communities, and to support those who are struggling with addiction.”
“These findings will influence our direction of work and strategies going forward, including through the new Partnership for Action on Drugs in Scotland (PADS) group.
“Drug taking is falling in Scotland, and the number of young people taking drugs is the lowest in a decade. The Scottish Government continues to invest in substance misuse education that supports the health and wellbeing outcomes for young people, their parents and carers.”
Professor Roy Robertson, Chair of Harms Group, Partnership for Action on Drugs in Scotland, said:
“Scotland has long recognised the problem of drug related deaths and has, for many years now, taken this problem very seriously. Unfortunately, despite considerable efforts, the problems giving rise to these fatalities have continued. Renewed efforts are clearly required as the figures for 2015 represent a situation which demands attention.
“The time has undoubtedly come for action at all levels. New resources are required and ownership of this national problem at a high level must now be seen. In Scotland there is a new initiative, the Partnership for Action on Drugs in Scotland group, Chaired by the Minister for Public Health and Sport, which incorporates a Harms Committee, taking a special interest in drug related deaths, among other harms. This is likely to inform treatment services, Health Boards and Scottish Government of expectations and opportunities for improvement in all sectors.”
Director of the Scottish Drugs Forum, Dave Liddell, said:
“The increase in fatal drug overdoses is a wakeup call to redouble efforts to reduce this tragic and largely preventable loss of life.
“Recently there has been increasing activity focussed on particularly vulnerable groups of people, for example the ageing cohort of drug users. The Scottish Drugs Forum (SDF) was commissioned by the Scottish Government to undertake work in this area and to look at how to improve service engagement and provision to this population. A report and recommendations on how services might be improved to engage more effectively with older drug users will be published later this year.
“Alongside this, SDF have been commissioned to undertake a wider piece of work supporting the local planning groups, Alcohol and Drug Partnerships, to develop death prevention strategies for their areas. This work recognises that death prevention is key to people making significant progress in their lives in terms of their health, well-being and being active within their communities.”
Chief Superintendent Barry McEwan, Safer Communities, said:
"Today's figures continue to show that drugs have a significant negative impact on our communities across Scotland, claiming lives and devastating families. The rise in drug-related deaths is disappointing and unfortunately every death leaves a tragedy in our communities and shows there is no safe way to take drugs - those who choose to take the risk of using drugs are risking their life.
"Police Scotland is committed to targeting individuals and organised crime groups who are responsible for the supply of drugs to our communities. The key to reducing harm is prevention and we look forward to being a member of the Partnership for Action on Drugs in Scotland (PADS) whilst continuing to work locally with partners, including the NHS, Alcohol and Drug Partnerships and drug charities, to reduce the harm caused by drugs in our communities.
"It is important to recognise that fewer young people are now taking the risk and we will continue to raise awareness about the harm caused by drug misuse through projects such as Choices for Life, which we deliver along with Young Scot and the Scottish Government to educate young people and provide them with vital information that allows them to make positive lifestyle choices.
"Communities also have a role to play in supporting victims and families affected by the harm caused by drugs. Someone knows the 'dealer' who is selling drugs and bringing death to our communities. I ask anyone who knows to tell a police officer or call Police Scotland on 101 or Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111."