National Records of Scotland

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Drug-related deaths in Scotland in 2016

Drug-related deaths in Scotland in 2016

Tuesday, 15 Aug 2017
Demograpgy news release image

A total of 867 drug-related deaths were registered in Scotland in 2016, according to statistics published today by the National Records of Scotland. This is the largest number in a series which starts at 1996, 161 (23%) more than in 2015, and more than double the figure for 2006 (which was 421).

The statistics also show that:

  • Males accounted for 68% of the drug-related deaths in 2016.
  • In 2016, there were 327 drug-related deaths of people aged 35-44 (38% of all drug-related deaths), 213 deaths of 45-54 year olds (25%) and 199 drug-related deaths in the 25-34 age-group (23%).
  • The NHS Board areas which accounted for most of the 867 drug-related deaths in 2016 were:
    • Greater Glasgow & Clyde – 257 (30%);
    • Lothian – 128 (15%);
    • Lanarkshire – 113 (13%); and
    • Ayrshire & Arran – 85 (10%). 
  • Of the 867 drug-related deaths in 2016, opiates or opioids were implicated in, or potentially contributed to, 765 deaths (88% of the total), including heroin and/or morphine in the case of 473 deaths (55%) and methadone in the case of 362 deaths (42%). Benzodiazepines (for example diazepam and etizolam) were implicated in, or potentially contributed to, 426 deaths (49%). These figures are higher than in any previous year.
  • Scotland’s figures imply a drug-death rate (relative to the number of people aged 15 to 64) higher than those reported for all the EU countries (though there are issues of coding, coverage and under-reporting in some countries – refer to Annex G of the publication, which provides information about drug-death rates for other countries), and a drug-death rate (per head of population) that is roughly two and a half times that of the UK as a whole.
  • Annex E of the publication provides information about deaths which involved so-called New Psychoactive Substances (NPSs), including their definition for the purposes of these figures. On that basis, in 2016:
    • There were 286 deaths in which NPSs were implicated, or potentially contributed to, the cause of death – but just four of them were believed to have been caused by NPSs alone;
    • Almost all (281) of those deaths are included in the 867 drug-related deaths referred to earlier (they are counted under that definition either because the person had also taken a controlled substance or because the NPS itself was one).

The full publication Drug-related deaths in Scotland in 2016 is available on this website.