Poorest Scots 15 times more likely to die from drug misuse last year

The poorest Scots were 15 times more likely to die from drugs misuse last year than those from the least deprived areas of Scotland, a new report states.

The annual ‘Scotland’s Population’ report, published by the National Records of Scotland, also states the poorest were 5.6 times more likely to die due to alcohol.

The figures for drugs deaths are an increase compared to the early 2000s when poorer communities were 10 times more likely to die from drug misuse, however the equivalent figure for alcohol deaths has decreased from a high of 8.7 in 2002.

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The report also states that Scotland will have a “smaller and older” population by 2045, with the country’s population projected to fall in the next decade, starting in 2029.

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This is due to growth from migration no longer offsetting the growing gaps between births and deaths.

Half of Scotland’s local authority areas will decline in population over the next decade, the NRS state.

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There will also be fewer children (down 22 per cent), more pensioners (up 21 per cent) and a small decrease in the number of people of working age (down two per cent).

Julie Ramsay, statistician and head of vital events for NRS, said: “Mortality rates are about twice as high in the most deprived areas compared with the least deprived. But for some specific causes of death, we see much larger inequalities.

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First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has promised to tackle soaring drug death figures.

"For example, people in the most deprived areas of Scotland are more than 15 times as likely to die from drug misuse as those in the least deprived areas.

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“That ratio has increased over the past two decades. In the early 2000s, those in the most deprived areas were around 10 times as likely to have a drug misuse death as those in the least deprived areas. In the last year, the gap has narrowed slightly.”

The report also noted that Covid-19 had accounted for 8 per cent of all deaths during the pandemic so far, while there were excess deaths from other causes like cancer and heart disease.

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Even after taking age into account, disabled people were more likely to die with coronavirus.

Those whose daily activities were limited a little were twice as likely to die, while those whose daily activities were limited a lot were three times as likely to die.

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Jackie Baillie, Scottish Labour’s health spokesperson, said the report must be a “clarion call” for health minister Humza Yousaf and for the SNP to put aside their “constitutional obsessions”.

She said: “This shocking report once more lays bare Scotland’s outrageous and unacceptable levels of health inequality.

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“Scotland’s life expectancy has been stalling for years but it is a national shame that those from the most deprived backgrounds have a considerably shorter life expectancy than those from wealthier backgrounds.

“Nobody’s health and future should be determined by a postcode lottery.”

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Highlighting the figures for drug deaths, Conservative MSP Sue Webber said: “This damning report is further confirmation that it’s those from the most deprived areas of Scotland who suffer most under the SNP Government.

“Scotland’s drugs death epidemic has spiralled out of control on the SNP’s watch and the country’s fatality rate is now the worst in Europe by a huge margin.

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“What is more, the NRS make clear that those from the poorest parts of the country are making up a higher proportion of drug-related deaths than they did when the SNP took power.

“They must belatedly give their backing to the Scottish Conservatives’ Right to Recovery Bill if they’re ever to get a grip on this national emergency.”

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Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Alex Cole-Hamilton said: “These shocking figures speak to how shabbily this SNP government have treated some of Scotland’s most deprived communities.

“On drugs deaths we need to see radical action to establish heroin assisted treatment and safe consumption spaces, and the establishment of new specialist Family Drug and Alcohol Commissions to help provide wraparound services close to communities.”

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The Scottish Government was contacted for comment.

The sixth and final episode of the brand new limited series podcast, How to be an independent country: Scotland’s Choices, is out now.

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It is available wherever you get your podcasts, including Apple Podcasts and Spotify.

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