Drug-related deaths in Scotland

National statistics publication for Scotland.

In total, 706 drug-related deaths were registered in Scotland in 2015, according to statistics published today by the National Records of Scotland in “Drug-related Deaths in Scotland in 2015”.

This was the largest number ever recorded, 93 (15 per cent) more than in 2014, and more than double the figure for 2005 (which was 336).

The statistics also show that:

• Males accounted for 69 per cent of the drug-related deaths in 2015.

• In 2015, there were 249 drug-related deaths of people aged 35-44 (35 per cent of all drug-related deaths), 183 deaths of 45-54 year olds (26 per cent) and 163 drug-related deaths in the 25-34 age-group (23 per cent).

• The NHS Board areas which accounted for most of the 706 drug-related deaths in 2015 were:
Greater Glasgow & Clyde – 221 (31 per cent);
Lothian – 100 (14 per cent);
Lanarkshire – 73 (10 per cent);
Grampian – 69 (10 per cent); and
Tayside – 63 (9 per cent).

• Using the annual averages for 2011-2015, to reduce the effect on the figures of year-to-year fluctuations:
For Scotland as a whole, the average of 602 drug-related deaths per year represented a death rate of 0.11 per 1,000 population;
The NHS Board area with the highest rate was Greater Glasgow & Clyde (0.16);
The next highest rate was for Tayside (0.12)

• Comparing the annual averages for 2011-2015 with those for 2001-2005:
The percentage increase was greater for females (153 per cent) than males (56 per cent);
The largest increase in numbers was for 35-44 year olds, the next largest was for people aged 45-54, and there was a fall in the number of drug-related deaths of people aged under 25;
The NHS Board areas with the largest increases in the numbers of drug-related deaths were Greater Glasgow & Clyde (up by 56), Lothian (up by 47), Lanarkshire (up by 33) and Tayside (up by 30).

• Of the 706 drug-related deaths in 2015:
Heroin and/or morphine were implicated in, or potentially contributed to, the cause of 345 deaths (49 per cent of the total) – more than in any previous year;
Methadone was implicated in, or potentially contributed to, 251 deaths (36 per cent) – fewer than its peak (275 in 2011), but more than in any of the previous three years;
One or more opiates or opioids (including heroin/morphine and methadone) were implicated in, or potentially contributed to, 606 deaths (86 per cent) – higher than in any previous year;
The number for benzodiazepines (e.g. diazepam) rose to 191 deaths – around the level seen in 2011 and 2012 (185 and 196, respectively)
The corresponding numbers for some other substances were: cocaine – 93 deaths; ecstasy-type drugs – 15 deaths; amphetamines – 17 deaths; alcohol – 107 deaths.
The percentages add up to more than 100 because more than one drug was implicated in, or contributed to, many deaths.

• 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 2015:
There were 74 deaths in which NPSs were implicated, or potentially contributed to, the cause of death – but just three of them were believed to have been caused by NPSs alone;
Almost all (72) of those deaths are included in the 706 drug-related deaths referred to earlier (either because the person had also taken a controlled substance or because the NPS itself was one);
In 57 of the 74 deaths, the only NPSs present were benzodiazepines (usually etizolam, but sometimes something else, such as diclazepam or phenazepam);
There were also 38 deaths for which NPSs were present but were not considered to have contributed to the death. Almost all of them (36) are included in the 706 drug-related deaths referred to earlier. In most cases (30 out of 38) benzodiazepines were the only NPSs present.

Notes to editors

1. The full publication, including figures for NHS Boards and local authority areas, is available from the National Records of Scotland website via: http://www.nrscotland.gov.uk/statistics-and-data/statistics/statistics-by-theme/vital-events/deaths/drug-related-deaths-in-scotland
2. The statistics were produced using a definition of “drug-related deaths” which was introduced in 2001 for the “baseline” figures for the UK Drugs Strategy. The definition was agreed by a working party set up following the publication of a report on “Reducing drug related deaths” by the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs, and is described in detail in Annex A of the publication.

Further information about the statistics is available from:
Customer Services
National Records of Scotland
Ladywell House
Ladywell Road
Edinburgh EH12 7TF

Tel: 0131 314 4299
E-mail: StatisticsCustomerServices@nrscotland.gov.


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