Latest suspected drug deaths report.

Figures show 8% decrease.

The latest quarterly report on the number of suspected drug deaths during 2021 shows a fall of 8% (116) on the previous year.

The report on suspected drug death Management Information from Police Scotland shows there were 1,295 deaths between January and December 2021. The equivalent number of suspected drug deaths for 2020 was 1,411, though official statistics from National Records of Scotland showed the confirmed number of drug-related deaths in 2020 was 1,339.

The figures show that in 2021:

  • males accounted for 73% of suspected drug deaths – a 3 percentage point decrease on the previous year
  • more than two thirds (67%) of suspected drug deaths were of people aged between 35 and 54
  • the number of suspected drug deaths in the under 25 age group was 68 – 20 fewer than in 2020
  • there were 288 suspected drug deaths in the last quarter (October – December 2021), three more than in the previous calendar quarter (July-September 2021) and 76 fewer than during the same period last year

Drugs Policy Minister Angela Constance said:

“I want to extend my deepest sympathy to all those affected by the loss of a loved one through drugs. I know that despite this decline in the number of suspected drug deaths, the figure is still far too high and, as I have said before there is much hard work to be done to turn this public health emergency around.

“Getting people into the treatment which works for them is key and we continue to embed the new Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT) standards which reinforce a rights-based approach for people who use drugs and the treatment they should expect regardless of their circumstances. We also aim to increase the number of publicly funded residential rehabilitation placements by more than 300 per cent over the lifetime of this Parliament and I will also shortly be announcing a target to increase the number of people in treatment. 

“There has been a slight increase in the number of deaths among females and we are committed to tackling the barriers which prevent women from accessing treatment, support and recovery. One of our priorities is to develop and increase women-specific services, and services to keep children and families together.

 “I am determined that the £250 million we are investing in tackling this public health emergency will make a difference and we will continue to prioritise our efforts to turn this crisis around.”


The quarterly Management Information from Police Scotland presents deaths that the police suspect involve illicit drugs based on reports of attending officers’ observations and initial enquiries at the scene of death.

This differs from the annual National Records of Scotland (NRS) National Statistics on drug-related deaths which use data from death registration records supplemented with information from the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service and forensic pathologists.

The Police Scotland suspected drug deaths correlate closely with the NRS drug-related death statistics. Since the period ending in December 2018, the rolling 12-month Police Scotland figures have ranged between 3% and 6% above the NRS drug-related death figures.

Suspected drug deaths in Scotland: October - December 2021  


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