National Records of Scotland

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Drug related deaths decrease

Drug related deaths decrease

Tuesday, 22 Aug 2023
Demography News Release Image

1,051 people died due to drug misuse in 2022, according to latest statistics published by National Records of Scotland.

This is a decrease of 279 deaths compared with 2021, representing the lowest number of drug misuse deaths since 2017. 

Despite this fall, drug misuse deaths are still more common than they were two decades ago. After adjusting for age, there were 3.7 times as many drug misuse deaths in 2022 compared with 2000.

Glasgow City and Dundee City had the highest rates of drug misuse deaths over the last 5 years while East Renfrewshire and Aberdeenshire had the lowest rates.

Opiates and opioids, including heroin, morphine and methadone, were implicated in more than 8 out of 10 drug related deaths in 2022. 

The majority of drug misuse deaths were classified as accidental poisonings, with 7% classed as intentional self-poisonings.

The rate of drug poisoning deaths in Scotland was 2.7 times as high as the UK average in 2021, the most recent year that data is available for the UK as a whole. 

Julie Ramsay, Head of Demographic Statistics at National Records of Scotland, said:
“While drug misuse deaths have been rising over the last two decades, with a particularly sharp increase after 2013, today’s statistics show the biggest year on year decrease since the series began.
“The statistics provide some insight into the people who are most likely to die from drug misuse. 

“Those living in the most deprived areas of Scotland are almost 16 times as likely to die from drug misuse compared to people living in the least deprived areas. 

“Males are twice as likely to die from drug misuse than females, however the fall in deaths in 2022 was much larger for males than for females.

“The age profile of drug misuse deaths has become older over time, the average age of people who died from drug misuse deaths has increased from 32 in 2000 to 45 in 2022.

The publication Drug-related deaths in Scotland in 2022 is available on our website.

The Office for National Statistics has recently published a blog post that recommends using the drug poisoning definition of drug deaths to compare between UK nations. This is a slightly different measure to the drug misuse deaths definition that NRS use for the headline figures. All UK comparisons in the report are based on the drug poisoning definition. 

Media enquiries should be directed to:
Sheena Maguire
NRS communications
Tel: 07391414659
Email: [email protected]