Why are drug-related deaths among women increasing in Scotland? - full report

A scoping project examining potential explanations for the disproportionate rise in drug-related deaths among women.


1. The Office for National Statistics definition of drug misuse deaths used here is the one closest to the National Records for Scotland definition of drug-related deaths, but there are some differences in data collection that may affect comparability. These are described further in Annex G of the latest NRS report (National Records for Scotland, 2016). It is therefore difficult to ascertain the extent to which differences in the trend are due to artefactual explanations (i.e. differences in the recording of drug-related deaths across the UK) rather than genuine differences in rates of drug use and the associated risk of harm.

2. An updated report, describing deaths up to and including 2016, will be published in 2018, and will again include a detailed analysis by gender.

3. ‘Initial assessments’ in the Scottish Drugs Misuse Database ( SDMD) refer to episodes of individuals first making contact with services providing tier 3 and 4 interventions (i.e. structured community or residential drug treatment) or reinitiating contact following a gap of at least six months since last attendance. Services contributing to the SDMD include specialist drug services and some medical services.

4. NESI – a survey based within needle exchanges – was identified as an exception to this, and a particularly valuable source of information.

5. In the National Drug-Related Deaths Database collated by ISD, whether or not a case is defined as being ‘known to use drugs’ is based on information from primary care, secondary health care, social work, police, or prison records, as collated by the local drug-related death co-ordinator.


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