Crime and Justice

Scottish drug related deaths in three charts

Drug related deaths in Scotland have continued to climb, according to new statistics released today by the National Records of Scotland. 

The 2015 figures show that there were 706 deaths recorded, the highest figure since records began.

That figure is 15% up on the previous year, and more than double the number recorded in 2005.

74 of the deaths were attributed to the influence of so-called New Psychoactive Substances, (NPS) although only 3 of these deaths were attributed to these drugs alone. In the other cases the NPS were used in conjunction with other drugs.

Voluntary groups and politicians have pointed to budget cuts and uneven local service delivery as factors that may have contributed to the rise.

Drug related deaths in Scotland by year crop

The figures also vary greatly by area, but averaged out and adjusted for population size, the numbers shows that the Greater Glasgow and Clyde area has the largest number of deaths per 1000 people, followed by Tayside.

In absolute terms,  the Greater Glasgow and Clyde area sees the largest number of deaths, followed by Lothian and Lanarkshire.

Drug related deaths in Scotland by area crop

Turning to the age profile of the deaths, there was a fall in the number of drug related deaths in people aged under 25, but increases in older age groups. The biggest increase was among those aged 35-54.

Drug related deaths in Scotland by age crop



A statement from Scottish Families affected by Alcohol and Drugs called for more safer injecting sites and identified the challenge of reducing resources in providing consistent services to tackle the problem.

It said: “Out of the 706 drug-related deaths, 553 were classed as “Accidental Poisoning” which highlights the need for harm reduction measures such as Naloxone.

“Families need the tools and knowledge to help prevent these tragic accidental deaths. The focus needs to be about preserving life and supporting those impacted. Understanding why people turn to substances is important and both families and communities need to be better equipped to prevent drug-related deaths.

“Policy and strategies are robust but not always implemented consistently at a local level due to the challenge of reducing resources.

“In response Scottish Families considers a wider harm reduction approach to reduce drug related deaths is needed, including safer injecting sites, wider roll out of Naloxone training for families and communities and better understanding of why people are not engaging with treatment services or fail to sustain treatment.”

Alison Johnstone MSP, Health Spokesperson for the Scottish Greens said: “Every drug-related death is a tragedy, causing distress for families and communities. The rise in deaths among 35 to 44 year olds is clearly a concern and it’s important we support those working in the field to reduce harm.

“The cuts to alcohol and drug partnerships have created huge uncertainty and it’s vital that Scottish Ministers address this. Substance abuse is complex but we cannot shy away from it. By supporting projects at local level, improving information-sharing and examining issues that affect older drug users, we can try to turn the situation around.”

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