Drug deaths Scotland: Suspected deaths rise amid fresh 'crisis' warning

The latest suspected drug deaths figures for Scotland have again risen

Suspected drugs deaths in Scotland have risen by 11 per cent in the latest quarterly data.

However, drug-related hospital admissions are down by 24 per cent in a monitoring report. The data is contained in the quarterly Rapid Action Drug Alerts and Response (Radar) report from Public Health Scotland (PHS).

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The figures for suspected drugs deaths covered the period between December and February, while the hospital admission data covered October to the end of December.

A consumption room, which policy leaders hope will help address the issue of drug deaths. Picture: John DevlinA consumption room, which policy leaders hope will help address the issue of drug deaths. Picture: John Devlin
A consumption room, which policy leaders hope will help address the issue of drug deaths. Picture: John Devlin

PHS’s report said the total number of suspected drug deaths during the period was 278, averaging 23 per week. These are based on reports and observations from police attending scenes of deaths.

While this was 11 per cent higher than the previous period, it was stable compared to the same periods in starting in December 2021 and December 2022.

Discussing the historic trend, the report said: “Between December 2021 and November 2023, the average weekly number of suspected drug deaths fluctuated considerably, but remained within a range of 17 to 31 per week.”

Between October and December 2023, 1,942 drug-related hospital admissions were recorded in Scotland, 24 per cent lower than the previous quarter. Admissions were 26 per cent lower than the same period in 2021 (2,438) and 7 per cent higher than in 2022 (1,798).

Responding to the figures, Dr Susanna Galea-Singer, chair of the addictions faculty at the Royal College of Psychiatrists in Scotland, called for more ring-fenced funding to tackle drugs.

She said: “While it’s encouraging to see hospital admissions down, the increase in drug deaths paints a very sad story because every death from addiction is a personal tragedy. Working on the frontline, our clinicians tell us they’d like to see more ring-fenced funding in health, social care and the third sector.

“This would increase access, choice and care for those people who so desperately need the right treatment and support.”

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Drugs and alcohol policy minister Christina McKelvie said: “My condolences go to all those who have lost a loved one. Through our £250 million national mission on drugs, I’m focused on supporting those affected by problem substance use, implementing evidence-based approaches to improve and save lives.

“National mission funds have now backed more than 300 grassroots projects and we’re taking a wide range of measures including moving towards a safe drug consumption facility pilot. We’re also committed to delivering drug-checking facilities which would enable us to respond faster to emerging drug trends.

“Funding for drug policy has increased by 67 per cent in real terms from 2014/15 to 2023/24 and funding for alcohol and drug partnerships rose to a record £112m in 2023-24.” Scottish Labour health spokeswoman Dame Jackie Baillie said: “The number of lives being needlessly lost to drugs in Scotland is both a tragedy and a scandal. It has been years since the SNP declared a public health emergency, but Scotland remains stuck in the grip of a drug death crisis.”

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Alex Cole-Hamilton said: “As well as delivering radical and transformational action to help all those suffering, I want ministers to protect and strengthen the drug and alcohol budget so that everyone can access care when they need it.”



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