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27/08/13 09:16

Drug deaths in under-25s dropping

Community Safety Minister welcomes 20 per cent decrease

The number of young people dying as a result of drug misuse continues to fall.

Community Safety Minister Roseanna Cunningham welcomed the publication of figures that show there were 20 per cent fewer drug related deaths amongst under-25s last year.

In total, 581 people died as a result of drug misuse in Scotland, three less than the year before.

Other key points in the report include:

  • Methadone was implicated in 237 deaths in 2012, 38 fewer than in 2011. In 68 deaths methadone was the only drug implicated (alongside alcohol in some cases) Of these, there were 12 deaths where methadone was found to be the only drug present

  • The figures provide further evidence of an ageing cohort of drug users. Nearly two thirds (63 per cent) of drug deaths were amongst those aged 35 and over. The number of people under 25 who died drug related deaths dropped from 58 in 2011 to 46 in 2012

  • For the first time, deaths where so called ‘legal highs’ or New Psychoactive Substances (NPS) were implicated have been included in the report. In 2012, there were 47 drug deaths where legal highs were present and five cases where they were the only drug present

Community Safety Minister Roseanna Cunningham said:

“First and foremost, we must recognise that these figures published today represent 581 loved ones lost by friends and families across Scotland and each of these deaths is a tragedy.

“The Scottish Government is dealing with a legacy of drug misuse which stretches back decades and, as in previous years, the statistics published today show that many of these deaths are older drug users who have become increasingly unwell throughout the years.

“It is encouraging that drug deaths statistics show fewer young people are dying. This is in keeping with wider statistics on drug use in Scotland that show a decrease amongst the general population, and that use by young people is at its lowest for a decade. There has also been a substantial drop in the number of deaths where methadone alone is implicated, a fall of 39 per cent from 112 in 2011 to 68 in 2012.

“Last week, the Independent Expert Group published their report into Opiate Replacement Therapy which said that they should continue to be used to treat heroin addiction in Scotland. We are currently considering the report in detail and will respond in the coming months.

“This Government believes that recovery from drug addiction is possible. Since 2007, we have invested over £194 million in front line drug services and support, with £30.3m invested this year alone. Our national drugs strategy, the Road to Recovery, was unanimously supported by the Scottish Parliament and continues to support and drive forward the recovery of those affected by drugs.

“For the first time, the National Records of Scotland report shows drug deaths where so called legal highs were found in the body. While the classification of drugs is a reserved matter, we very much recognise the challenges posed by New Psychoactive Substances, also known as legal highs, and that is why we hosted a national event in April to discuss this very issue, where I was joined by representatives from the police, health, community and youth organisations.”

Dr Roy Robertson on behalf of the National Forum on Drug-related Deaths said:

“It is always disappointing to see the depressing loss of life from drug related causes. The National Forum on Drug-related deaths provides independent advice to the Scottish Government to ensure that the ambition of the Road to Recovery strategy is fully implemented in Scotland and we endorse the approach taken in the strategy. These statistics will help us to review what more can be done by a range of partners and agencies across the country to reduce the risk of drug deaths and help drive the strategy forward.

“Scotland should be proud of its national Naloxone programme which is evolving steadily to ensure protection of those most at risk of overdose. The Forum will undertake further scrutiny and discussion of the details and implications of today’s figures and offer more detailed analysis and advice to the Scottish Government.”

Notes to editors

A full version of the statistical report can be found at

A full copy of the National Forum on Drug-Related Deaths in Scotland - Annual Report 2011/12 can be found at