Scotland’s quarterly suspected drug deaths figures highest since June 2021

Press release, Scotland news
14 March 2023

Suspected drug deaths in Scotland have reached their highest recorded number in a single calendar quarter since 2021.

The Scottish Government published the quarterly report into suspected drug deaths in the country using Police Scotland management data.

There were 1,092 suspected drug deaths in the whole of 2022 – 203, or 16%, fewer than the whole of 2021, according to official data.

But 295 of these suspected deaths occurred in the final quarter of the year – from October to December 2022.

This was 60 more – or 26% – than the previous quarter and 2% more than the same calendar quarter in 2021, when there were 288 suspected deaths.

This is the highest number of suspected drug deaths recorded in a single calendar quarter since April to June 2021.

The data is based on police officers’ initial inquiries at the scene of death and is not official drug death data.

Dr Susanna Galea-Singer, Chair of the Addictions Faculty at the Royal College of Psychiatrists in Scotland, said: “These statistics are heartbreaking as well as deeply worrying.   

“While the announcement of the £68m cross-government action plan was most welcome, the Scottish Government must do better. They must make sure services, workforce and funding is sustained over time."

Males accounted for 70% of all suspected drug deaths in 2022, compared with 73% from the previous year.

And the number of suspected drug misuse deaths in females fell by 31 to 325 in 2022.

The data also showed 66% of suspected drug deaths involved people aged 35 and 54, with 55 suspected deaths in the under-25 category – 19% fewer than 2021.

Greater Glasgow, Lanarkshire and Edinburgh city recorded the highest number of suspected drug deaths across police divisions, with 214, 118 and 113 respectively.

Dr Susanna Galea-Singer, added: "Drug deaths are driven by poverty, past trauma, domestic abuse and generational substance misuse. These social factors will take years to address.

“We need better access to services, choice and support as well as joined up services across our local communities so there are treatment options in place - for those who so desperately need them."

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