Suspected drug deaths in Scotland fell by 8% last year

There were 1295 suspected drug deaths between January and December 2021.

Suspected drug deaths in Scotland decreased 8% in 2021 iStock
There were 1295 suspected drug deaths between January and December 2021.

The number of suspected drug deaths in Scotland fell by 8% last year.

There were 1295 suspected drug deaths between January and December 2021, according to Police Scotland’s quarterly management information.

In 2020, the equivalent number was 1411.

However, this method of recording differs from the official statistics produced by National Records Scotland (NRS), which found there were 1339 confirmed drug-related deaths in 2020.

The NRS data for 2021 has not yet been published.

Within the Police Scotland data, males accounted for 73% of suspected drug deaths, a 3% decrease on the previous year.

More than two-thirds (67%) of suspected drug deaths were aged between 34 and 54.

In January 2021 the Scottish Government declared a “national mission” to tackle rising drugs deaths, appointing a special minister to focus on the task.

Drugs policy minister Angela Constance said: “I want to extend my deepest sympathy to all those affected by the loss of a loved one through drugs.

“I know that despite this decline in the number of suspected drug deaths, the figure is still far too high and, as I have said before there, is much hard work to be done to turn this public health emergency around.”

She said the government was working to improve treatment standards and increase residential rehabilitation spaces.

Constance continued: “There has been a slight increase in the number of deaths among females and we are committed to tackling the barriers which prevent women from accessing treatment, support and recovery.

“One of our priorities is to develop and increase women-specific services, and services to keep children and families together.

“I am determined that the £250m we are investing in tackling this public health emergency will make a difference and we will continue to prioritise our efforts to turn this crisis around.”

Scottish Lib Dem leader, Alex Cole-Hamilton, said: “These aren’t just numbers, they are actual people.

“Each one represents a human tragedy and a family in mourning.

“Scotland’s performance on drugs has been truly terrible, particularly in many of our poorest and most deprived neighbourhoods. That must change.

“When it comes to drug-related deaths, Scotland is the worst in Europe. This is a crisis of international significance.

“It’s why I’ve called for a specialised WHO taskforce, made up of leading experts in drug mortality, to help get to grips this particularly Scottish epidemic.”