'Caution' urged as suspected drug deaths fall by 22% in six months

Police Scotland data revealed there were 562 suspected drug deaths between January and June 2022.

Suspected drug deaths in Scotland fall by 22% in six months iStock

A leading drugs charity has urged “caution” after the number of suspected drug deaths in Scotland fell by nearly a quarter in the first half of the year.

According to Police Scotland’s quarterly management information, there were 562 suspected drug deaths between January and June 2022 – which is 22% less than the same period in 2021 – where the equivalent number was 722.

Scotland has the highest drugs death rate in Europe, with 1,330 lives lost last year, according to official figures.

Within the newly released Police Scotland data, males accounted for 69% of suspected drug deaths, a 3% decrease on the previous year.

Just less than two-thirds (64%) of suspected drug deaths were aged between 34 and 54.

FAVOR Scotland, a charity supporting those with addiction, said the figures should be treated with “caution” and that the Scottish Government “continues to fail catastrophically”.

“Although these statistics look optimistic, it is too early to assess if this is part of a longer-term trend,” said Annemarie Ward, the organisation’s CEO.

“This snapshot has to be treated with caution, not only because this report itself says so, but also because in the same police figures for 2021 showed significant reductions in three of the four quarters, while the yearly figures from National Records for Scotland found there had been only nine fewer deaths (0.67%).

“That was still 12% higher than the 2018 figures which were so universally intolerable that the Scottish Government declared a national public health emergency and established the National Drug Death Task Force.

“The Scottish Government continues to fail catastrophically because they keep listening to and investing in the same failing leadership, services and systems they always have and will not put in real accountability measures or targets that have consequences if not met.”

In July 2022, the Scottish Government said that the number of drugs deaths in the country remained “unacceptable”.

Recommendations set out by the Scottish Drugs Deaths Taskforce earlier this year included the introduction of drugs consumption rooms, 24/7 emergency care from drug treatment services, and also aftercare for those that have left a service.

The report blamed the death rate on multiple chronic problems including poor physical and mental health, unemployment, unstable housing, involvement with the criminal justice system and family breakdowns.

Drug policy minister Angela Constance said: “Scotland suffers a terrible toll from drug deaths, leaving families grieving and in pain and my heart goes out to all those affected by the death of a loved one through drug.

“These latest statistics provide yet more heart-breaking reading, and the situation remains unacceptable.”

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