Credit: Creative Commons

Bethany Woodhead

Report reveals that drug-related deaths have been increasing in Scotland over the past five years

A report by the National Records of Scotland, published on 16 July 2019, details a consistent rise over the past five years in the number of drug-related deaths in Scotland. In 2018, there were 1,187 drug-related deaths, up from 934 in 2017. The figure has more than doubled in the past decade, standing at 455 in 2007, and is almost five times more than the number two decades ago in 1996, at 244. 

International Overdose Awareness Day takes place globally every year on 31 August and aims to reduce the stigma surrounding drug-related deaths, as well as raise awareness of overdose. This year, the Scottish Drugs Forum hosted the conference “’Connections During Crisis’ - Preventing drug deaths in Scotland” at the Radisson Blu on Argyle Street on 29 August.  

The aforementioned report shows a breakdown in the number of deaths per drug, with heroin/morphine causing the most fatalities at 537 deaths last year, cocaine at 273, ecstasy-type at 35 and alcohol at 156.

Last year, 860 of the total reported deaths were male and 327 were female. Within the age group breakdown, 64 drug-related deaths were of 15 to 24-year olds, meanwhile the 35 to 44 age bracket accounted for 442 of the deaths and there were 28 drug-related deaths amongst the 65 and over bracket. 

When looking at the statistics by location in Scotland, the Greater Glasgow and Clyde area have the highest number of drug-related deaths at 394 in 2018, just over double in the past decade from 188 in 2008. The city of Glasgow itself contributes to 280 of those. Lothian contributed to 152, with the city of Edinburgh accounting for 95 drug-related deaths. 

The final table of the report showed the latest figures published by a number of countries on drug-induced deaths of people aged 15 to 64. Most countries’ figures are for 2017, but some are for 2016 or earlier years. The total (which includes figures from the whole of the EU, Turkey and Norway), came to 8,799; the UK contributed 3,108 of those (74 per million of the population). Germany had the second highest at 1,120 (21 per million of the population) and Sweden is third at 574 (92 per million of the population). 

A silver badge, purple wristband and purple lanyard can signify the loss of someone to overdose and are symbols of awareness and show support for those undergoing grief. Wearing them sends out the message that every person’s life is valuable and stigmatising people who use drugs must stop.

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