Calls for more action as drug-related hospital stays hit record levels

Drug-related admissions to Scotland’s hospitals have quadrupled over the past 20 years to the highest rate on record, figures have shown.

Someone taking drugs in a 'consumption room'. Picture: AFP/Getty Images)
Someone taking drugs in a 'consumption room'. Picture: AFP/Getty Images)

According to NHS Scotland statistics, hospital stays due to drugs have gone up from 51 to 199 per 100,000 people over the past two decades, and have shown “a sharper increase” in recent years.

There were 10,509 drug-related general acute hospital stays in Scotland in 2017-18, of which 1,791 were because of overdoses or poisoning.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

The figures led to calls for radical action to tackle Scotland’s drugs crisis, with around 1,000 people expected to die from drug-related deaths this year.

Heroin and opioids were the most common cause of hospital admissions, accounting for 58 per cent of drug-­related stays, while about half of the total involved people who live in the most-deprived parts of Scotland.

Almost a third (31 per cent) of admissions for patients between 15 to 24 years old involved cocaine and 28 per cent were due to cannabis-based drugs.

David Liddell, chief executive of the Scottish Drugs Forum, said: “These figures are of great concern. It highlights very clearly the need for greater and targeted interventions with this population both within the hospital setting and in the community, which can reduce unplanned hospital admissions.

“In addition to the older population, there is a worrying trend in increasing admission rates for general acute/psychiatric patients aged 15-24 years. This is linked to cocaine and also the use of cannabinoids.”

Scottish Liberal Democrat health spokesman Alex Cole-Hamilton said: “There has been a devastating increase in drug-related hospital stays and deaths in recent years. The situation continues to deteriorate and this should compel the Scottish Government to go further.”

Scottish Conservative public health spokeswoman Annie Wells said: “Over the last 12 years, the SNP government has failed abysmally to tackle Scotland’s problems with drugs. As a result, thousands of vulnerable people have been let down and communities have been savaged by the continual scourge of drugs on our streets.”

Public health minister Joe FitzPatrick said: “We’re taking forward evidence-based actions and examining how services can evolve to ensure they find those people most in need. This renewed focus has been backed by additional investment of £20 million in drug and alcohol treatment and support services and will be used to improve the provision and quality of services.”