A TOTAL of 613 people died drug-related deaths in Scotland last year - the highest figure ever recorded.
Men accounted for almost three-quarters of the deaths, while heroin was implicated in more than half of cases.
The largest increase in numbers was for 35-44 year olds, the next largest was for people aged 45-54, and there was a fall in the number of drug-related deaths of people aged under 25;
Commenting on the findings, Minister for Community Safety and Legal Affairs, Paul Wheelhouse said: “The figures published today highlight that while there has been some progress in tackling problem drug use, Scotland still faces a huge challenge in tackling the damaging effects of long-term drug use among an aging cohort of individuals in Scotland.
“This group of individuals often have long-term, chronic health problems as a result of sustained and, in many cases, increasingly chaotic drug-use issues. Pin-pointing a cause of death is never easy, but is typically complex. We are undertaking work to better understand the needs of particular sub-groups and to better understand what role the purity, or strength, of illicit drugs is playing in increasing fatalities.”
Roy Robertson, chair of the National Forum on Drug-Related Deaths, added: “Older drug users are most susceptible because their often frail health cannot sustain a life of polysubstance misuse, including alcohol use, and injecting related problems.
“Although the final mechanism of death may be recorded as an overdose, years of high risk drug use, blood borne virus infections, smoking and alcohol consumption combine to increase their vulnerability. Stigma, a life course of traumatic experiences, social exclusion and feeling the brunt of austerity leaves many pursuing a risky, hopeless existence, often extinguished ultimately by suffering a drug related death.”