Publication - Statistics

Drug seizures and Offender Characteristics, 2018-2019 and 2019-20

An overview of the number of drugs possession and supply crimes and the quantities seized during 2018-19 and 2019-20. There are also details of the types of offenders, location, and how the crime was discovered for possession based crimes.

Drug seizures and Offender Characteristics, 2018-2019 and 2019-20
Number of seizures and quantities of drugs seized

Number of seizures and quantities of drugs seized

The quantity of drugs seized can fluctuate considerably each year and does not necessarily move in line with the number of seizures made. Whilst most drug seizures consist of relatively small quantities (usually possession-related crimes), annual quantities of drugs seized can be greatly influenced by a small number of large seizures (usually supply-related crimes).

Drug supply crimes

Intelligence-led operations against known drug dealers tend to result in a low number of seizures, but conversely the quantity of drugs seized and their value will be high. These high profile operations may result in greater disruption to the illicit drugs trade which, whilst having a positive effect, may reduce the number of seizures made. As such, care should be taken when comparing quantities of drugs seized over time.

A significant proportion of drugs seized in terms of quantity come from seizures related to supply crimes, despite making up a relatively small proportion of the overall number of seizures.

This section covers drugs seized where the crime was one of drug supply, drug production or illegal importation of drugs.

Class A drugs seized from drug supply crimes

Table 1b shows that in 2018-19, Police Scotland reported that they seized 125 kilograms (kg) of heroin, 386 kg of cocaine and 5 kg of crack cocaine from drug supply crimes. In 2019-20, Police Scotland seized 223 kg of heroin, 131 kg of cocaine and 4 kg of crack cocaine.

Approximately 5,200 ecstasy-type tablets were seized in 2018-19 and approximately 28,800 were siezed in 2019-20.

7 litres of methadone was seized by Police Scotland in 2018-19, with 3 litres siezed in 2019-20.

Compared to other types of Class A Drugs, relatively small amounts of LSD and morphine were seized in 2018-19 and 2019-20.

In addition to the information in Table 1a, there were 7 supply-based seizures of 'Other' Class A drugs in 2018-19 and 25 in 2019-20.

Table 1a: Number of Class A drug seizures by Police Scotland from supply crimes, by drug type, 2014-15 to 2019-20 1
Drug 2014-15 2015-16 2016-17 2017-18 2018-19 2019-20
Cocaine Powder 366 506 488 543 558 634
Crack Cocaine 3 25 85 70 128 149
Ecstasy-type Substances 89 148 150 143 120 178
Heroin 553 737 815 826 731 678
LSD 3 6 9 3 4 9
Methadone 34 11 12 9 8 5
Morphine 3 18 3 6 5 11
Table 1b: Quantity of Class A drugs seized by Police Scotland from supply crimes, by drug type, 2014-15 to 2019-20 1
Drug Units 2014-15 2015-16 2016-17 2017-18 2018-19 2019-20
Cocaine Powder kg 75.7 82.7 120.3 74.4 386.1 130.8
Crack Cocaine kg 0.0 4.2 5.2 6.7 5.3 4.4
Ecstasy-type Substances tablets (000s) 15.1 13.4 8.6 25.4 5.2 28.8
Heroin kg 106.1 74.0 54.1 118.6 125.3 222.5
LSD tablets/other units (000s) 0.1 0.0 0.1 0.1 0.1 0.1
Methadone litres 8.1 4.3 1.1 1.1 7.4 2.5
Morphine litres 0.1 0.0 0.6 0.0 0.0 0.3

1. Data for 2014-15 is based on an estimated 85% of all drug supply-related crimes. The equivalent figures for the following years are 92% (2015-16), 100% (for both 2016-17 and 2017-18), 89% for 2018-19 and 94% for 2019-20 (see Annex: Data Quality Statement for further information).

Class B drugs seized from drug supply crimes

Table 2b shows the quantities of Class B drugs seized in 2018-19 and 2019-20.

The quantity of cannabis-related drug seizures from drug supply crimes in 2018-19 included 671 kg of herbal cannabis, 190 kg of cannabis resin and 25,933 cannabis plants. In 2019-20, Police Scotland seized 921 kg of herbal cannabis, 649 kg of cannabis resin and 33,295 cannabis plants.

There were 81 kg of amphetamines seized in 2018-19 and 143 kg in 2019-20. There was 0.1 kg of ketamine seized in 2018-19 and 7 kg seized in 2019-20. There were no mephedrone seizures from drug supply crimes in 2018-19 and just one seizure of less than 0.1 kg in 2019-20.

In addition to the information in Table 2a, there were 21 supply-based seizures of 'Other' Class B drugs in 2018-19 and 40 in 2019-20.

Table 2a: Number of Class B drug seizures by Police Scotland from supply crimes, by drug type, 2014-15 to 2019-20 1
Drug 2014-15 2015-16 2016-17 2017-18 2018-19 2019-20
Herbal Cannabis 731 905 849 918 849 984
Cannabis Resin 268 400 329 334 221 153
Cannabis plants 594 655 683 648 421 485
Amphetamines 124 135 151 102 71 98
Barbiturates - - - - - -
Ketamine 2 2 7 7 11 29
Mephedrone 2 11 22 - - 1
Table 2b: Quantity of Class B drugs seized by Police Scotland from supply crimes, by drug type, 2014-15 to 2019-20 1
Drug Units 2014-15 2015-16 2016-17 2017-18 2018-19 2019-20
Herbal Cannabis kg 165.4 413.9 347.9 553.4 671.1 920.8
Cannabis Resin kg 153.4 570.4 322.1 625.0 189.8 649.0
Cannabis plants plants 13,022 31,398 18,310 16,346 25,933 33,295
Amphetamines kg 118.4 71.8 109.9 68.3 80.5 142.9
Barbiturates tablets (000s) - - - - - -
Ketamine kg 0.0 0.0 10.0 0.1 0.1 6.6
Mephedrone kg 0.0 0.9 14.6 - - 0.0

1. Data for 2014-15 is based on an estimated 85% of all drug supply-related crimes. The equivalent figures for the following years are 92% (2015-16), 100% (for both 2016-17 and 2017-18), 89% for 2018-19 and 94% for 2019-20 (see Annex: Data Quality Statement for further information).

Class C drugs seized from drug supply crimes

Table 3b shows the quantities of Class C drugs seized from drug supply crimes.

Most Class C seizures were benzodiazepines, with almost 1.8 million tablets seized in 2018-19 and over 4.9 million tablets in 2019-20. Whilst it is not possible to present figures for diazepam, etizolam and other benzodiazepines separately, the vast majority of tablets seized from crimes of drugs supply are likely to have been etizolam, including an estimated 94% of benzodiazepine tablets seized in 2019-20.

Etizolam is a 'designer' benzodiazepine, which was classified as a Class C drug under a 2017 amendment to the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971[2].

Approximately 5,400 anabolic steroid tablets were seized in 2018-19 and 5,500 tablets in 2019-20. Fewer than 50 temazepam tablets were seized in 2018-19, with approximately 300 tablets seized in 2019-20.

Table 3a: Number of Class C drug seizures by Police Scotland from supply crimes, by drug type, 2014-15 to 2019-20 1
Drug 2014-15 2015-16 2016-17 2017-18 2018-19 2019-20
Anabolic Steroids 3 5 52 3 1 8
GHB 0 2 - - - 1
Temazepam 2 4 2 1 3 2
Benzodiazepines2 419 382 316 322 307 414
Table 3b: Quantity of Class C drugs seized by Police Scotland from supply crimes, by drug type, 2014-15 to 2019-20 1
Drug Units 2014-15 2015-16 2016-17 2017-18 2018-19 2019-20
Anabolic Steroids tablets (000s) 0.3 0.3 12.1 0.4 5.4 5.5
GHB litres 0.0 0.0 - - - -
Temazepam tablets (000s) 0.0 1.3 34.2 0.1 0.0 0.3
Benzodiazepines2 tablets (000s) 1,182.7 1,276.1 2,165.4 583.8 1,762.9 4,929.1

1. Data for 2014-15 is based on an estimated 85% of all drug supply-related crimes. The equivalent figures for the following years are 92% (2015-16), 100% (for both 2016-17 and 2017-18), 89% for 2018-19 and 94% for 2019-20 (see Annex: Data Quality Statement for further information).

2. Prior to 2017-18, the vast majority of the tablets seized in this category are likely to have been diazepam. Etizolam, a 'designer' benzodiazepine, was classified as a Class C drug under a 2017 amendment to the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971. It is estimated that etizolam represented 94% of the total quantity of benzodiazepines seized from supply crimes in 2019-20.

Drug possession crimes

The majority of seizures of controlled drugs are from drug possession crimes (in terms of the number of seizures), however by their nature these incidents involve a relatively small quantity of drugs being seized. As a result, drug possession crimes account for only a small proportion of all drugs seized in terms of quantity, despite accounting for the vast majority of seizures.

The data presented below for drug possession crimes is based on a sample of 400 records per year. As this analysis is drawn from a sample of records, users should treat the following information as a broad indication of the characteristics of drug possession rather than as an exact measure. All figures are presented at a national level as the sample size is too small to provide robust estimates for geographies below this.

Number of drug possession crimes by drug classification

Recorded crime statistics show that in total, there were 30,469 drug possession crimes recorded by the police in 2019-20, compared to 29,843 drug posession crimes in 2018-19 and 27,171 in 2017-18. Further information can be found in Recorded Crime in Scotland, 2019-20.

Table 4a shows the distribution of the classification of drugs seized in the sample for 2014-15 to 2019-20. Table 4b shows the resulting estimate of the total number of possession crimes involving each class of drug.

In both 2018-19 and 2019-20, more than half of all drug possession crimes were estimated to involve Class B drugs (59% in 2018-19 and 54% in 2019-20). A further 19% of all drug possession crimes in 2018-19 were estimated to involve Class A drugs, with an equivalent figure of 23% for 2019-20. Around a fifth of all drug possession crimes involved Class C drugs in both in 2018-19 (19%) and 2019-20 (21%). It should be noted that the changes in proportions between 2018-19 and 2019-20 were not statistically significant.

Between 2014-15 and 2019-20, the proportion of drug possession crimes that were estimated to involve a Class B drug fell from 68.0% to 53.8%. The changes for Class A and Class C possession crimes (between 2014-15 and 2019-20) were not statistically significant.

Table 4a: Percentage of drug possession records in the sample by drug classification, 2014-15 to 2019-20
Drug Class 2014-15 2015-16 2016-17 2017-18 2018-19 2019-20
Class A 15.8% 17.5% 22.5% 21.8% 19.3% 23.0%
Class B 68.0% 67.5% 62.5% 57.5% 59.3% 53.8%
Class C 15.8% 14.5% 14.0% 16.5% 18.5% 21.3%
Unclassified1 0.5% 0.5% 1.0% 4.3% 3.0% 2.0%
Total 100% 100% 100% 100% 100% 100%
Table 4b: Estimated number of drug possession crimes by drug classification, 2014-15 to 2019-20 2
Drug Class 2014-15 2015-16 2016-17 2017-18 2018-19 2019-20
Class A 5,000 5,200 6,200 5,900 5,700 7,000
Class B 21,500 20,200 17,400 15,600 17,700 16,400
Class C 5,000 4,300 3,900 4,500 5,500 6,500
Unclassified1 200 100 300 1,200 900 600
Total 31,632 29,929 27,766 27,171 29,843 30,469

1. In a small number of cases the drug type could not be classified due to lack of information or no controlled drugs were seized.

2. As these figures are estimates they have been rounded to the nearest 100.

Quantity of drugs seized from drug possession crimes

In 2018-19, cocaine, heroin, herbal cannabis, cannabis resin and etizolam accounted for 86% of all drug possession seizures. They accounted for 79% of all drug possession seizures in 2019-20.

In both 2018-19 and 2019-20, herbal cannabis was the most commonly seized drug by a considerable margin, with etizolam the second most commonly seized drug. In 2018-19, 58% of all possession-related seizures involved these two drug types, with the equivalent figure of 55% for 2019-20.

Table 5c provides estimates of the quantity of drugs seized from 2014-15 to 2019-20 for particular drug types. To ensure the value of these estimates, they have only been carried out where there were at least 15 observations of a drug found in the sample. Following year-on-year decreases between 2014-15 and 2017-18, diazepam did not reach this required level to be reported in 2018-19 and 2019-20. This suggests that by those latest two years, diazepam accounted for only a very small proportion of seizures for drug possession crimes.

The quantity has been estimated by multiplying the average quantity seized in the sample by the estimated number of drug possession seizures involving that drug.

Table 5a: Percentage of drug possession records in the sample, by drug type, 2014-15 to 2019-20
Drug 2014-15 2015-16 2016-17 2017-18 2018-19 2019-20
Cocaine 7.8% 8.3% 10.3% 10.0% 11.3% 8.8%
Heroin 4.8% 6.0% 7.5% 8.8% 5.3% 7.8%
Herbal Cannabis 43.0% 46.8% 41.8% 39.5% 44.3% 40.8%
Cannabis Resin 21.0% 16.8% 18.3% 14.0% 11.8% 7.8%
Diazepam 14.5% 12.3% 9.8% 5.5% n/r n/r
Etizolam1 n/a n/a n/a 5.5% 13.3% 14.0%
Table 5b: Estimated number of drug possession crimes, by drug type, 2014-15 to 2019-20 2
Drug 2014-15 2015-16 2016-17 2017-18 2018-19 2019-20
Cocaine 2,500 2,500 2,900 2,700 3,400 2,700
Heroin 1,500 1,800 2,100 2,400 1,600 2,400
Herbal Cannabis 13,600 14,000 11,600 10,700 13,200 12,400
Cannabis Resin 6,600 5,000 5,100 3,800 3,500 2,400
Diazepam 4,600 3,700 2,700 1,500 n/r n/r
Etizolam1 n/a n/a n/a 1,500 4,000 4,300
Table 5c: Estimated quantity of drugs seized by Police Scotland from drug possession crimes, by drug type, 2014-15 to 2019-20
Drug Units 2014-15 2015-16 2016-17 2017-18 2018-19 2019-20
Cocaine kg 4.1 6.1 5.2 4.7 6.6 4.6
Heroin kg 0.8 2.1 2.1 3.8 1.5 2.9
Herbal Cannabis kg 36.2 36.8 39.6 61.2 33.1 58.5
Cannabis Resin kg 14.8 17.6 32.6 28.1 29.5 8.3
Diazepam tablets (000s) 151.3 63.2 71.8 33.2 n/r n/r
Etizolam1 tablets (000s) n/a n/a n/a 61.7 308.0 335.1

1. From 2017-18 onwards, separate figures are presented for etizolam, a 'designer' benzodiazepine, which was classified as a Class C drug under a 2017 amendment to the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971.

2. As these figures are estimates they have been rounded to the nearest 100.

n/r = Due to the low number of observations in the sample of drug possession crimes (fewer than 15 out of 400) estimates have not been reported.

Overall quantity of drugs seized

Table 6 shows the total quantity of drugs seized for the drug types where an estimate of the quantity seized from possession crimes has been made. The figures shown in the table are the sum of the quantities seized from supply-related crimes and the estimated quantity seized from possession crimes.

For those drug types not shown in Table 6, there were fewer than 15 observations in the sample of possession crimes for each year, and therefore the total quantity seized from possession crimes is likely to be very small. Due to this the quantity seized from supply-related crimes shown in Tables 1b, 2b and 3b should provide a reasonable estimate of the total quantity seized.

For all of these drug types the quantity of drugs seized from possession crimes is relatively small when compared to the quantity seized from supply crimes.

In 2018-19, 393 kg of cocaine was seized in total, with 136 kg seized in 2019-20. There were also 127 kg of heroin seized in 2018-19, with 225 kg seized in 2019-20.

In total, just over 700 kg of herbal cannabis was seized in 2018-19, with 902 kg seized in 2019-20. The quantity of cannabis resin seized was 219 kg in 2018-19 and 657 kg in 2019-20.

Approximately 2.1 million benzodiazepine tablets were seized in 2018-19, with approximately 5.3 million seized in 2019-20. The vast majority of tablets seized in 2019-20 (an estimated 94% of supply and possession crimes combined) were etizolam. As noted above, etizolam is a 'designer' benzodiazepine, which was classified as a Class C drug under a 2017 amendment to the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971[3].

Table 6: Estimated total quantity of drugs seized by Police Scotland, by drug type, 2014-15 to 2019-20 1
Drug Units Drug Class 2014-15 2015-16 2016-17 2017-18 2018-19 2019-20
Cocaine kg A 79.8 88.8 125.5 79.1 392.7 135.5
Heroin kg A 106.9 76.1 56.2 122.4 126.8 225.4
Herbal Cannabis kg B 201.6 450.7 387.4 614.6 704.2 979.3
Cannabis Resin kg B 168.2 588.0 354.7 653.1 219.3 657.3
Benzodiazepines2 tablets (000s) C 1,334.0 1,339.3 2,237.3 617.0 2,070.9 5,264.2

1. Data for 2014-15 is based on an estimated 85% of all drug supply-related crimes. The equivalent figures for the following years are 92% (2015-16), 100% (for both 2016-17 and 2017-18), 89% for 2018-19 and 94% for 2019-20 (see Annex: Data Quality Statement for further information).

2. Prior to 2017-18, the vast majority of the tablets seized in this category are likely to have been diazepam. Etizolam, a 'designer' benzodiazepine, was classified as a Class C drug under a 2017 amendment to the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 (link below). It is estimated that etizolam represented 94% of the total quantity of benzodiazepines seized from drug crimes (including both supply and possession together) in 2019-20.


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