National Records of Scotland

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Drug-related Deaths in Scotland in 2005

Drug-related Deaths in Scotland in 2005

Summary of Results

Recent trends (Table 1

4. There were 336 drug-related deaths in 2005, 20 (6%) fewer than in 2004 and 46 (12%) fewer than in 2002. Within these totals, the number of deaths of known or suspected habitual drug abusers fell from 232 in 2004 to 204 in 2005. This is 27% lower than the figure of 280 recorded in 2002. Table 1 also shows that there was a large increase in the number of drug-related deaths coded to ‘intentional self-poisoning’, from 32 in 2004 to 43 in 2005.

NHS Board areas (Table 2 and Table 3)  

Note: Table 2, Table 3 and Table 6 present information for the new NHS Board areas created following the dissolution of NHS Argyll & Clyde. The trend data in Table 2 has been reworked to the new areas. To assist users, the tables also present data for Argyll & Clyde and the former Greater Glasgow and Highland areas.

5. Of the 336 deaths in 2005, 111 (33%) occurred in the Greater Glasgow & Clyde NHS Board area. Lothian with 57 (17%) had the next highest total and was followed by Lanarkshire with 40 (12%). The Greater Glasgow & Clyde total showed an decrease of 40 since 2004 whereas there was an increase of 21 in Lothian. Grampian also recorded a significant drop, down 16 from 39 to 23.

6. Because of the relatively small numbers involved, particularly for some NHS Board areas, and the possibility that more complete information has been reported in recent years, care should be taken when assessing the trends shown in Table 1 and Table 2.

Age groups and sex (Table 4)

7. Most deaths (83%) were to persons aged under 45. However only 14% were under 25 compared to 23% in 2004. Of the 58 cases aged 45 and over, only 21 were known, or suspected, to be drug-dependent. Men accounted for 259 (77%) of the 336 drug-related deaths in 2005. The number of female deaths increased from 67 in 2004 to 77 in 2005. Almost two-thirds (65%) of the male deaths were of known or suspected drug abusers compared to only 45% of the female deaths.

Types of drug involved (Table 5 and Table 6)

8. Table 5 and Table 6 give information on the involvement of selected drugs, either alone or, more commonly, in combination with other drugs. Since the tables record individual mentions of particular drugs they involve double counting of some deaths. It is believed that for the overwhelming majority of cases where morphine has been identified in post-mortem toxicological tests its presence is a result of heroin use. The tables therefore show a combined figure for ‘heroin/morphine’.

9. In 2005, the drugs listed in Table 5 and Table 6 were known to be involved in 282 (84%) of the 336 deaths. Heroin/morphine was involved in 194 (58%) of the deaths; diazepam was involved in 90 (27%) of the deaths; and methadone was involved in 72 (21%) of the deaths. Cocaine and ecstasy were involved in 44 and 10 cases respectively. A wide range of drug combinations was recorded. Of particular note was the fact that diazepam was also mentioned in 58 (30%) of the 194 deaths involving heroin/morphine. The presence of alcohol was mentioned for 114 of the 336 drug-related deaths in 2005. The blood-alcohol level was not given for all cases but, where mentioned, it was sometimes at a relatively low level.

10. Table 5 shows that, since 1996, there has been a significant increase in the involvement of heroin/morphine, though recent years have seen a limited reduction from the peak of 248 recorded in 2002. The number of deaths involving diazepam also peaked in 2002, since when it has dropped back almost to the 1996 level. Over the period there have also been marked changes in the smaller numbers involving cocaine and ecstasy. Whilst the number of deaths involving cocaine has continued to increase, to a new high of 44 in 2005, that for ecstasy has fallen back in recent years. Between 1996 and 2000 there was a downward trend in the number of deaths involving methadone; 2001 and 2002 saw a sharp rise, but since then a downward trend has resumed. The table also shows the dramatic recent fall in the number of deaths involving temazepam.

11. Table 6 shows some geographical differences in the reported involvement of certain drugs.  For most NHS Board areas, heroin/morphine was involved in a majority of the deaths e.g. 65 out of 111 in  Greater Glasgow & Clyde, 26 out of 40 in Lanarkshire. However, much lower proportions were observed in Lothian (15 out of 57) and Forth Valley (6 out of 14). Lothian (19 out of 57) and Greater Glasgow & Clyde (29 out of 111) showed relatively high proportions involving methadone. These contrast with the very low proportion (3 out of 23) recorded in Grampian. The table also shows that diazepam was involved in almost one in three (34 out of 111) of the deaths  in Greater Glasgow & Clyde; and that cocaine was involved in one in five (22 out of 111).

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