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This is an archived section of the Scottish Government website. External links, forms and search may not work on archived pages and content/contact details are likely to be out of date.

This page relates to the 2007 version of the National Performance Framework. Information about the current version of the NPF is available on the Scotland Performs Home Page.

Current status

In 2009/10, there were an estimated 59,600 individuals, aged 15-64, who were misusing opiates and/or benzodiazepines in Scotland. This compares to 55,300 individuals in 2006.

Further drug related targets are shown on the NHS Scotland pages on Scotland Performs.

More on individuals with problem drug use

National Indicator


Decrease the estimated number of problem drug users in Scotland by 2011

Decrease the estimated number of problem drug users in Scotland by 2011

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Why is this National Indicator Important?

In international terms, Scotland has a disproportionately serious problem with drug misuse. It is a significant driver of economic underperformance, crime and victimisation, risk to children and health inequalities, including drug-related deaths.

People with drug problems are often the most vulnerable and marginalised in society and experience stigma and social isolation. The Scottish Government wants more people to have the opportunity to recover from their drug problems and therefore, it is important to maintain an oversight of the estimated size of this population of people with multiple and complex needs.

Recent studies suggest that drug use among young people is falling, and confirms the presence of an ageing population of people with drug problems. Children and families affected by problem drug use can experience a range of difficulties and for this reason, improving outcomes for these children and families is a top priority for Government.

Problem drug use is also strongly linked to crime and the total economic and social costs of problem drug use in Scotland are estimated at around £3.5bn a year. Clearly, reducing the number of individuals wirh problem drug use through long-term, sustained and individual focussed recovery is a key priority for the Government.

What will influence this National Indicator?

There are strong and clear links between: poverty; deprivation; mental health and wellbeing; health inequalities; repeat offending; victimisation; and drug addiction. Not everyone who lives in a disadvantaged neighbourhood will develop a problem. However, people are more at risk where there are: low employment opportunities; few community amenities; poor personal resources; and weak family and social bonds. Addressing wider inequalities such as housing, income, education and health can play an important role in reducing drug misuse. Tackling drug misuse effectively will, in itself, have a significant impact on inequalities in Scotland.

What is the Government's role?

The Government published in May 2008 "The Road to Recovery" - the first national drugs strategy for a decade. This sets out a new strategic direction for tackling problem drug use, based on treatment services promoting recovery. The strategy also sets out how the Government and its partners have a key role in tackling problem drug use through: taking a broad approach to prevention (promoting economic growth, delivering early interventions, and supporting families); measures to reduce supply through law enforcement; and intelligence-led activities to disrupt organised crime. It also proposes a range of measures to better ensure that children affected by parental substance misuse are safe. We want to build safer and stronger communities, more attractive to work and live in. Key to all of this is the effective delivery of the drug strategy at a national and local level. An investment of £28.6 million to support access to recovery-focused services has been provided to Health Boards for frontline drug services in 2010-11; this represents an increase of over 20% since 2006-07.

How are we performing?

Estimates of the number of individuals with problem drug use draw on a wide-range of data sources and, because they are estimating a largely hidden and unknown population, they are difficult to establish accurately.

The estimated number of individuals, aged 15 to 64 years old, with problem drug use in Scotland in 2009/10 was 59,600 compared with an estimate of 55,300 in 2006. This represents an estimated increase of 4,300 individuals with problem drug use since 2006.

Estimated number of individuals with problem drug use, 2009-10

View data on Drug users

Source: Estimating the National and Local Prevalence of Problem Drug Misuse in Scotland


This evaluation is based on: any difference within +/- 2% per annum suggests that the position is more likely to be maintaining than showing any change. A decrease in the rate of 2% per annum or more suggests the position is improving; whereas an increase of 2% or more per annum suggests the position is worsening. The threshold of 2% per annum chosen is based on an assessment of the data available at this time, and may need to be reviewed as more information becomes available in the future.

For information on general methodological approach, please click here.

Further Information

Scotland Performs Technical Note

Statistics Topic Page

Who are our partners?

Related Strategic Objectives

Wealthier and Fairer


Safer and Stronger

View National Indicator data

Downloadable document:

Data for National Indicator on Drug usersData for National Indicator on Drug users [XLS, 30.0 kb: 29 Nov 2011]
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Performance Improving


Performance Maintaining


Performance Worsening

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Performance data currently being collected