National Records of Scotland

Preserving the past, Recording the present, Informing the future

Occasional Paper

Occasional Paper


3. In its enquiry in 1993 into drug abuse in Scotland, the House of Commons Select Committee on Scottish Affairs expressed concern about the quality of available information on deaths resulting from drug abuse. In response to the Select Committee's concern an improved system for collecting information on drug-related deaths in Scotland was introduced in 1994. A paper [Reference 1] published in June 1995 by National Records of Scotland (NRS) described this revised system, outlined the definitions used, and presented data for 1992, 1993 and 1994. Further short papers, covering data up to 1999, were published in subsequent years.

4. The system introduced in 1994 uses a specially designed questionnaire, completed by forensic pathologists, for all deaths involving drugs or persons known or suspected to be drug-dependent. Additionally, NRS follows up all cases of deaths of young people where the information on the death certificate is vague or suggests that there might be a background of drug abuse. A PDF version of the questionnaire (91 Kb) currently used is attached.
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5. The definition of a 'drug-related death' is not straightforward. A useful discussion on the definitional problems may be found in an article in the Office for National Statistics publication Population Trends [Reference 2]. More recently, a report [Reference 3] by the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD) considered current systems used in the United Kingdom to collect and analyse data on drug-related deaths. In its report the ACMD recommended that 'a short life technical working group should be brought together to reach agreement on a consistent coding framework to be used in future across England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland'. NRS was represented on this group and this paper presents information on drug-related deaths using the approach agreed.

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