National Records of Scotland

Preserving the past, Recording the present, Informing the future

Drug-related deaths rise

Drug-related deaths rise

Friday, 30 Jul 2021
Demography News Release Image

1,339 drug-related deaths were registered in Scotland in 2020, an increase of 5% from 2019, according to statistics published by National Records of Scotland today.

This is the largest number of drug-related deaths since records began in 1996.

Other key findings show:

  • The number of drug-related deaths has increased substantially over the last 20 years – there were 4½ times as many deaths in 2020 compared with 2000.
  • Men were 2.7 times as likely to have a drug-related death than women, after adjusting for age.
  • After adjusting for age, people in the most deprived parts of the country were 18 times as likely to die from a drug-related death as those in the least deprived.
  • Almost two thirds of all drug-related deaths were of people aged between 35 and 54. The average age of drug-related deaths has increased from 32 to 43 over the last 20 years.
  • Greater Glasgow and Clyde had the highest drug-related death rate of all health board areas, followed by Ayrshire and Arran and Tayside.
  • Scotland’s drug-death rate continues to be over 3½ times that for the UK as a whole, and higher than that of any European country.

Alan Ferrier, Head of Demographic Statistics, said:

"Sadly, last year saw the highest number of drug-related deaths in Scotland since reporting began 25 years ago, and 59 more deaths than were registered in 2019.

“At the beginning of the century, the rate of drug-related deaths in Scotland’s most deprived areas was 10 times that of our least deprived areas. By 2020 this gap had increased to 18 times as high.”

The publication Drug-related deaths in Scotland, 2020 and an infographic summary is available on the NRS website.