Drug-related deaths in 2016

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 72% (626) of the total number of drug deaths in 2016. The median age at the time of death continues to be 41 years old. This is consistent with the same trends seen in recent years of the publication.

The total number of drug deaths has risen by 23% between 2015 and 2016 – from 706 to 867.

The number of people dying from a drug-related death in the under 24 age bracket accounted for 5% (42) of the total number of drug deaths.

These statistics show 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 said:

“I would like to offer my sympathies to anyone affected by the loss of someone who has died as a result of drug use. Each number represents an untimely death and is a tragedy. We are continuing to do all we can to prevent others from experiencing this heartbreak.

“We are dealing with a very complex problem in Scotland - a legacy of drugs misuse stretching back decades. What we are seeing is an ageing group of people who are long term drugs users. They have a pattern of addiction which is very difficult to break, and they have developed other chronic medical conditions as a result of this prolonged drugs use.

"Unfortunately, there is a general trend of increasing drug-related deaths across the UK and in many other parts of Europe.

“There are no easy solutions but we recognise that more needs to be done. This is why I recently announced a refresh of our drugs strategy in response to the changing landscape we are seeing. This will provide an opportunity to reinvigorate our approach, to respond to the new challenges emerging and to be more innovative in our response to the problems each individual is facing.

“The evidence is clear that one of the most effective methods for stopping people from dying from substance use is for them to be engaged with services. Therefore, our refreshed strategy will include a new ‘Seek, Keep, Treat’ programme which will challenge service providers to adapt their approaches to meet the needs of each drug user.

“Despite the problems we are seeing amongst older drugs users, we must not lose sight of the progress that is being made more widely. Drug taking in the general adult population is falling, drug taking levels among young people remain low, and we’ve achieved significant reductions in treatment times for those needing help with drug problems.

“We remain committed to working with partners to reduce the damage drugs do to individuals, families and communities and supporting those struggling with drugs misuse to overcome their addictions.”

Dave Liddell, Chief Executive, Scottish Drugs Forum said:

“The fatal drug overdose deaths are personal tragedies for the individuals and their families, and clearly of a scale which is a national tragedy that requires a fundamental rethink of our approach.  Other countries have achieved a reduction in overdose deaths by ensuring that people are appropriately retained in high-quality treatment and we must aspire to do the same.” 

Chief Superintendent John McKenzie, Police Scotland, said:

“The tragedy of drug related deaths and the impact on families across Scotland is recognised by Police Scotland and we will continue to work in collaboration to support communities and improve wellbeing.

“The figures today continue to emphasise the health implications associated with the legacy of drug misuse stretching back decades.

“Through our active participation in the Partnership for Action on Drugs in Scotland (PADS) and our support for the refresh of the Road to Recovery, Police Scotland continues to commit to reducing the tragic impact of drugs on individuals, families and the communities of Scotland. Our partnership work to raise awareness about the harm caused by drugs misuse will continue, including the Choices for Life Programme, and by working locally with partners, including the NHS, Alcohol and Drug Partnerships and drug charities.

“These figures are a reminder to all of the impact of drugs and whilst working with partners to reduce the impact on community members, Police Scotland remains committed to targeting individuals and organised crime groups who profit by targeting some of the most vulnerable people in our communities.

“We ask all communities to help Police Scotland to identify individuals and groups who sell drugs to assist with this commitment.

“I ask anyone who knows to tell a police officer or call Police Scotland on 101 or Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111. All information will be treated in confidence"



Media enquiries

Back to top