Suspected drug deaths in the first three months of 2023 were 5% higher than the same period last year, figures suggest.
The Scottish Government’s quarterly report on suspected drug deaths uses Police Scotland management data to provide an indication of the crisis, with 298 lives thought to be lost between January and March this year.
Analysis of the data shows the figure is 1% higher than the 295 deaths in the previous quarter – October to December 2022, while there were 13 more deaths this year than there were in the first months of last year.
The number of females thought to be affected has increased by 14% to 98 suspected deaths compared to January to March 2022.
However, males accounted for 67% of all of the suspected deaths, at 67%, a decrease from 70% in 2022.
Suspected deaths among under 25s increased slightly – by 7% – to 16 in this quarter, compared to 2022, while 66% were people aged 35 and 54.
Police divisions with the highest number of estimated deaths include Greater Glasgow with 68, Edinburgh City, 46 and Lanarkshire, 34.
In the 12 months to March 2023, suspected drug deaths fell by 7% to 1,105.
Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Alex Cole-Hamilton said: “These figures are stories of lives cut short and potential extinguished. They are stories of opportunities lost, families and friends grieving.
“Every drug death is preventable, so I will never understand why Nicola Sturgeon, by her own admission, took her eye off the ball and cut the support people relied upon.
“The result was a public health disaster and Scotland’s drug deaths are now many times worse than anywhere else in Europe.”
He has called for the immediate introduction of specialist drug commissions and for safe consumption rooms to be set up across Scotland.