Suspected drugs deaths rose in first six months of 2023, figures show

Scottish Government published statistics revealed 600 suspected drug deaths over January to June 2023, with this up 7% on the same period last year.

Scotland’s suspected drugs deaths rose in first six months of 2023, figures show STV News

Suspected drug deaths have risen in the first six months of this year, new figures have shown.

Statistics published by the Scottish Government showed there were 600 such fatalities over the period January to June – with this total 7% higher than the same time in 2022.

It comes after separate statistics, published last month by National Records of Scotland, showed a fall in deaths from drugs misuse – with these dropping to 1,051 in 2022, down by 279 on the 2021 figure.

That was the largest ever fall recorded, but Tuesday’s figures showed 38 more suspected drugs deaths in the first six months of this year, compared to January to June 2022.

A total of 302 suspected drugs deaths were recorded in April to June 2023 – four more than the first three months of the year.

The latest quarterly total was however 9% higher than it had been in the period April to June 2022.

Almost three quarters (72%) of those who died between January and June were men, with this up from 69% in 2022.

And just over two thirds (67%) of fatalities involved people aged between 35 and 54 – with this said to be broadly in line with previous statistics.

There were 26 suspected drugs deaths among the under-25 age group, with this down by 16% from the first six months of 2022.

The data, based on operational information from Police Scotland, showed the force’s divisions with the largest number of suspected drugs deaths were Greater Glasgow, where there were 143 deaths between January and June 2023, followed by Lanarkshire with 76 and Edinburgh City, where there were 73.

It comes the day after Scotland’s top law officer, Lord Advocate Dorothy Bain QC, paved the way for a safer drugs consumption room to be piloted in Glasgow, when she made clear it would “not be in the public interest” to prosecute people using such a facility for possession of illegal drugs.

And drugs policy minister Elena Whitham said the figures showed there was “no room for complacency”, saying that deaths “remain far too high”.

Ms Whitham said: “While the official statistics from National Records of Scotland for 2022 showed a decline in the number of deaths in 2022 – a reduction of 279 from the previous year – the numbers we are seeing remain far too high and the suspected drug death figures for the first half of this year show there is absolutely no room for complacency as we continue to deliver our national mission to tackle this crisis.”

She added: “This includes implementation of the key harm reduction approaches such as safer drug consumption facilities, following the announcement by the Lord Advocate that it would not be in the public interest for people using a pilot safer drug consumption room to face prosecution for possession within the facility.

“It’s vital this pilot has the full confidence of the general public as well as those who use the facility, and the leadership of Glasgow and Police Scotland will help ensure it is introduced as quickly as possible.

“Through our £250m national mission, we are doing everything within our powers to tackle drug deaths in Scotland.

“With the number of deaths at the levels we are seeing, we are determined to use every means at our disposal as we face future challenges, including the increasing threat from synthetic opioids.”

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