The number of drug related deaths in Scotland has fallen for the first time in four years, according to new figures.
However, the death rate last year remained the second highest ever recorded and experts have warned the ongoing trend is upwards.
The number of people killed by drugs dropped to 545 in 2009 from 574 the previous year.
However, the 5% drop comes one year after figures hit their highest ever recorded level. And experts say, long-term, the country is still seeing a steady rise in drug related deaths. And while 76% of the deaths were men, experts highlighted the fact that the number of women dying of drug related causes has doubled since 2007.
The Greater Glasgow and Clyde NHS area accounted for the highest local number with a record 200 deaths. The Lothians had the second highest number at 80 deaths, while NHS Grampian recorded an increase to a new high of 52.
Heroin and morphine were the biggest killers, being implicated in 322 deaths. The number of deaths caused by the heroin substitute methadone reached an all-time high of 173, however, the number of people receiving methadone treatment is also at its highest level.
Alcohol was implicated in a further 165 deaths, almost one-third, according to the figures from the General Register Office for Scotland.
Community Safety Minister Fergus Ewing said: "I extend my sympathies to everyone who has been affected by the loss of a loved one. These figures published today remind us that drug misuse destroys lives, and the impact is felt far beyond the individual user.
"Fewer people lost to drug use is always good news, but we must acknowledge that these figures remain high. It is clear we continue to face a challenge to help steer people away from problem drug use and towards recovery.
"The Scottish Government believes that our national drugs strategy, the Road to Recovery, will make the difference. It provides the framework for a generational change in our approach to tackling problem drug use and reducing drug related deaths through a focus on recovery.”
Dr Roy Robertson, Chair of the National Forum on Drug-Related Deaths, added: "Taking into account what we have experienced in the past concerning the general upward trend in figures this year's drug related deaths show a similar pattern to previous years. Any reduction is, however, welcome as each death is a personal tragedy and a family and community disaster.
"This year there have been several initiatives and proposed interventions outlined in the annual report of the National Forum on Drug Related Deaths which will hopefully have an impact over the next few years. As ever there is a sense of urgency and a feeling that any initiative is too slow, deaths should be prevented immediately.
"There is an active programme for the coming year and pressure to improve standards and outcomes in supporting people who use drugs is a high priority."
The Scottish Government provided a record £28.6 million for frontline drug treatment services this year and as the figures were released, Mr Ewing announced a national programme for Naloxone, an opiate antidote which temporarily reverses the effects of overdose.
He said: "Naloxone isn't the solution to drug-related deaths but it is an important intervention. It has role to play within a wider range of treatment and support in reducing harm and supporting recovery."
The Government will spend £500,000 over two years for the programme, which will see all prisons supplying the drug and training to prisoners "vulnerable" to overdoses before release.
Biba Brand, of the Scottish Drugs Forum, said: "In the USA and Europe, take-home Naloxone programmes have been linked with reductions in drug deaths of up to 34%.
"If people are to have a chance of recovering from a heroin problem - and we are to stop the damage caused to families and communities through these deaths - the first priority is helping people to stay alive. This programme aims to do that."
However, opposition politicians said introducing anti-overdose drugs was not the answer to tackling the country’s problem.
Conservative deputy leader Murdo Fraser MSP said: "This sends out completely the wrong message and won't do anything to move a prisoner towards abstinence, which must be the long-term goal of any drugs strategy.
"We need to be prioritising drug-free wings in prison and this is the complete opposite of that aim."
Liberal Democrat health spokesman Ross Finnie MSP said: "If we are going to cut the tragically high number of drug related deaths in Scotland, we need to act now to get addicts out of a cycle of drug-taking and crime.
"Scottish Government investment in new drugs may be a part of the solution, but what's more important is getting community rehabilitation to those who need it as quickly as possible."
Labour community safety spokesman James Kelly also insisted more needed to be done, adding: "Particularly worrying is the number of children and young adults who become involved in occasional drug-taking and develop a serious dependency at an early age.
"Worrying too is that areas of high social deprivation continue to suffer from higher levels of drug abuse.
"More work needs to go into prevention and intervention programmes as well as into a renewed effort on educating young people about the dangers of drugs.”