Statistical News Release

934 drug-related deaths in Scotland in 2017.

There were 934 drug-related deaths registered in Scotland in 2017, 66 (8 per cent) more than in 2016, 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 2007 (455). 

These statistics are contained in “Drug-related Deaths in Scotland in 2017”, which also reveals that:
• Males accounted for 70 per cent of the drug-related deaths in 2017.
• There were 360 drug-related deaths of people aged 35-44 (39 per cent of all drug-related deaths), 268 deaths in the 45-54 age-group (29 per cent) and 185 drug-related deaths of 25-34 year olds (20 per cent).
• The NHS Board areas with the most drug-related deaths in 2017 were:
o Greater Glasgow & Clyde – 280 (30 per cent);
o Lothian – 137 (15 per cent);
o Lanarkshire – 102 (11 per cent); and
o Tayside – 94 (10 per cent).
• Opiates or opioids, such as heroin, morphine and methadone, were implicated in, or potentially contributed to, 815 deaths (87 per cent of the total number in 2017).   Benzodiazepines such as diazepam and etizolam were implicated in, or potentially contributed to, 552 deaths (59 per cent).   
• Scotland’s figures imply a drug-death rate that is higher than those reported for any EU country (though there are issues of coding, coverage and under-reporting in some countries – see Annex G of the publication), and roughly 2½ times that of the UK as a whole.

NRS has also today 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 - latterly, about half a dozen per year, on average.

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 deaths for which certain drugs were implicated in, or potentially contributed to, the cause. For example: heroin and/or morphine (470 deaths, or 50 per cent of the total); methadone (439 deaths, 47 per cent); diazepam (205 deaths, 22 per cent); etizolam (299 deaths, 32 per cent); and cocaine (176 deaths, 19 per cent). 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 2017, there were 337 deaths for which NPSs were implicated in, or potentially contributed to, the cause of death. Almost all (335) of those deaths are counted in the total of 934 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).  Just five 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 2017, 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.


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