Record numbers of women dying from drugs in Scotland

Scottish Labour's health spokesperson Anas Sarwar MSP described the figures as 'absolutely shocking'. Picture: TSPL
Scottish Labour's health spokesperson Anas Sarwar MSP described the figures as 'absolutely shocking'. Picture: TSPL
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Scotland has seen a dramatic incease in the proportion of women being killed by drugs, a new Scottish Government report has found.

The alarming trend was revealed in research which also found that overall drugs-related death had reached a record high. The study was conducted for the Scottish Government’s Substance Use Strategy which is to be published this summer. Although fewer women die from drugs than men, the proportion of female casualties had increased.

The proportion of drug-related deaths among women rose from 19 per cent in the period 2002-6 to 29 per cent in the period 2012-16.

This coincided with an overall increase in drug-related deaths, with a record high of 867 deaths recorded 2016 – an increase of 106 per cent on the 2006 figure.

The percentage increase in female deaths far exceeded male deaths. The percentage increase in female drug deaths was 169 per cent, compared with 60 per cent for males.

The report suggested the pattern of rising female drug deaths could be explained by the stresses of parenting challenges, the experience of having a child removed or being involved in an abusive relationship.

The research quoted a woman interviewed for the study. She said: “I think women do it to block out what’s happened in their life, like, abusive relationships, losing their weans [children], whatever, but men do it more because they want to do it.

“…I think men just take it more for the fun, women do it to, because they’re hurting from something.”

Annie Wells, Scottish Conservative public health spokesman, said: “The significant increase in drugs deaths to the highest ever levels demonstrates the total failure of the SNP approach to drug misuse.The fact is that the SNP policy of maintaining addiction is not working and more focus must be placed on enabling addicts to quit.”

Scottish Labour’s health spokesperson Anas Sarwar MSP said: “These are absolutely shocking figures that should be a wake-up call for the SNP government. Lives have been ruined and families left to cope with grief and trauma for years to come. “

Public health minister Joe FitzPatrick admitted more had to be done to help women whose lives were blighted by drugs. He said: “The number of drug-related deaths in Scotland is a matter of grave concern, not least the increasing proportion of women who have died in recent years. This report give us very valuable insights into some of the factors involved, potential actions and where we need to dig deeper in order to find effective solutions.”