Estimated 900 suspected drug deaths in first nine months of 2023

An estimated 300 of the deaths took place between July and September.

Estimated 900 suspected drug deaths in first nine months of 2023 PA Media

There were an estimated 900 suspected drug deaths between January and September 2023, according to official statistics.

The Scottish Government has produced a quarterly report from Police Scotland’s management information to provide an indication of current trends in suspected substance-related deaths.

The number of suspected drug deaths in the first nine months of the year increased by 13% – 103 people – compared with the same period of 2022.

Of these deaths, 645, or 72%, were males, up 16% from the 556 last year.

Figures also suggested that 66% were aged between 35 and 54.

There were 255 female suspected deaths – a rise of 6% compared with the 2022 estimate of 241.

There were 46 suspected deaths in the under-25 age group – 5% of all estimated lives lost and an increase of 7% from the previous year.

Police Scotland data also showed that Greater Glasgow had 231 suspected drug deaths – the highest of any division area, followed by 108 in Lanarkshire and 99 in Edinburgh City.

There were also 1,195 suspected drug deaths over the 12 months up to September 2023 – a 10% increase from the same period of 2022.

Meanwhile, it is estimated that 300 of these deaths occurred during the quarter July to September 2023 – two fewer than between April and June, but 65 more than during the same period in 2022.

Tess White, deputy health spokeswoman for the Scottish Tories, said: “These catastrophic and heartbreaking figures indicate that the SNP are no closer to solving the drug death epidemic that has spiralled on their watch.

“The rise in fatalities on the same quarter a year earlier is deeply concerning – and every single death is a tragedy for the victim’s loved ones.

“SNP ministers – having shamefully taken their eye off the ball – remain unable to get a grip on this national emergency and seem to be pinning all their hopes on consumption rooms as the solution.

“Instead, they should be focused on improving access to treatment and rehab programmes for those with addiction problems.”

Drug and alcohol policy minister Elena Whitham said: “Drug deaths in Scotland are still too high and every life lost is a tragedy.

“Through our national mission on drugs, I’m focused on supporting those affected by problem substance use, delivering real change on the ground and implementing evidence-based approaches to improve and save lives.

“As well as moves towards a safe drug consumption facility pilot in Glasgow, we’re taking a wide range of measures and national mission funds have now backed more than 300 grassroots projects.

“As the threat grows from the unexpected presence in the drug supply from highly potent synthetic opioids such as nitazenes which bring increased risk of overdose and death, we have also developed our surveillance abilities.

“Our rapid action drug alerts and response reports and other measures play a vital part in providing an early warning of emerging drug trends.

“We’re also committed to delivering drug checking facilities which would also enable use to respond faster to these trends.”

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