Drug related deaths in 2015 highest ever

Aileen Campbell

New statistics released today show that in 2015 there were more drug-related deaths recorded than ever before, at 93, 15 per cent higher than in 2014 and more than double the figure for 2005 (336).

Scotland’s drug-related deaths also continue to particularly affect an ageing group of drug users.

The National Records of Scotland publication shows the over-35 age group accounted for 73 per cent of the number of deaths in 2015, up from 67 per cent in 2014. The median age at time of death has also risen from 40 to 41 years old.

The total number of drug deaths has risen by a substantial 15 per cent between 2014 and 2015 - from 613 to 706.

The number of people dying from a drug-related death in the under 24 year old age bracket has fallen from 47 (8 per cent of number of deaths in 2014) to 30 (4 per cent of number of deaths in 2015).

These statistics show that that the health risks faced by an ageing cohort of drug users remain a key challenge for Scotland.

Health minister Aileen Campbell said: “Each one of these deaths is a personal tragedy for the family and friends involved, and I would like to offer my sincere sympathy to anyone affected by the loss of someone who has died as a result of drug use.

“However, these figures show that we have an ageing group of drug users who are experiencing increasingly poor health. This is a legacy of Scotland’s drug misuse which stretches back decades.

“To address this we have funded research to investigate the issues associated with older drug users through the Scottish Drugs Forum. We have also achieved significant reductions in treatment times for those needing treatment for their drug problem.

“We remain committed to tackling the scourge of illegal drugs and the damage they do to our communities, and to support those who are struggling with addiction.”

“These findings will influence our direction of work and strategies going forward, including through the new Partnership for Action on Drugs in Scotland (PADS) group.”

Director of the Scottish Drugs Forum, Dave Liddell, said: “Recently there has been increasing activity focussed on particularly vulnerable groups of people, for example the ageing cohort of drug users. The Scottish Drugs Forum (SDF) was commissioned by the Scottish government to undertake work in this area and to look at how to improve service engagement and provision to this population. A report and recommendations on how services might be improved to engage more effectively with older drug users will be published later this year.”