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Number of drug related deaths soars to highest figure ever

Illegal drugs
Illegal drugs

The number of drug-related deaths across Scotland has jumped by 15% in a year to the highest figure ever recorded.

More than 700 people died as a result of drug abuse last year – 93 more than the 613 recorded in 2014.

The 2015 figure was also more than double the number of drug deaths recorded a decade ago in 2005, when the total stood at 336.

The statistics, released by the National Records of Scotland (NRS), also show how deaths in the north and north-east have almost doubled in recent times – from 18 to 35 in the mainland Highlands in two years and 36 to 69 in Grampian in a single year.

Grampian’s figure makes up just under 10% of the Scottish total and comes fourth in a national table of shame.

Ministers pointed to figures showing that drug-related deaths are particularly affecting an ageing group of users.

The NRS figures reveal the over-35 age group accounted for 73% of the deaths last year. Sixty-one people were in the 55 to 64 age group (9%) and 20 were aged 65 or over (3%).

Dave Liddell, director of the Scottish Drugs Forum, said: “The increase in fatal drug overdoses is a wake-up call to redouble efforts to reduce this tragic and largely preventable loss of life.”

Of the 706 deaths, heroin and/or morphine were implicated in, or potentially contributed to, 345 of them. This was almost half the total and was more than in any previous year.

Methadone was implicated in 251 deaths (36%), which was lower than its peak in 2011 but more than in any of the previous three years.

Some 93 deaths last year involved people who had used cocaine, while 15 had taken ecstasy-type drugs, the data shows.

Regional figures show that while the Glasgow area accounted for more than 200 of the deaths, the Lothians had 100 (14%), Lanarkshire 73 (10%), Grampian 69 (10%) and Tayside 63 (9%).

Further details on the age of those who died in 2015 reveal there were 249 drug-related deaths of people aged 35-44 and 183 among 45 to 54-year-olds.

In the younger age brackets, 163 deaths were of those aged 25-34 and 30 were aged 15 to 24.

Public Health Minister Aileen Campbell said: “These figures show that we have an ageing group of drug users who are experiencing increasingly poor health. This is a legacy of Scotland’s drug misuse which stretches back decades.

“To address this we have funded research to investigate the issues associated with older drug users through the Scottish Drugs Forum. We have also achieved significant reductions in treatment times for those needing treatment for their drug problem.

“We remain committed to tackling the scourge of illegal drugs and the damage they do to our communities, and to support those who are struggling with addiction.”

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