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Drug deaths drop but Scotland remains drug death capital of Europe

This news post is 9 months old

Charity laments the country is "well beyond the need for urgent action"

New figures show Scotland’s drug deaths are the lowest since 2017 - but campaigners warn they remain by far the highest in Europe.

Just over 1,000 people in Scotland died as a result of drug misuse in 2022 - 88 fewer than the peak of 1,339 recorded in 2020.

However, the figures are equivalent to almost three people dying every day and is by far the highest rate of any country in Europe, including the rest of Great Britain.

A leading charity responded to the figures, blaming a lack of leadership in tackling drug-related deaths.

The Scottish Drugs Forum (SDF) also warned that as well as an “inadequate response to the ongoing public health emergency,” the country was not prepared for “the emerging threat of a drug supply containing new synthetic opioids.” 

Figures show that opiates (for example heroin, morphine and codeine) were most deadly, contributing to more than four in five deaths, followed by benzodiazepines (sedatives which include Xanax and Valium).

Cocaine was involved in 371 deaths.

Kirsten Horsburgh, CEO of SDF said: “We are now well beyond the need for urgent action.  The emergency demands action now and by all means possible. There can be no further delays.

“Everyone seems to know that Scotland has an astonishing rate of drug-related deaths and that was before we saw this emerging trend of new synthetic opioids within the heroin supply. 

“Alarm bells should be ringing all over government and all through the treatment and support services because we are not prepared.

“In truth, we all know exactly what the evidence tells us we should be doing. The question is do we have the collective will to implement the necessary change.”

The statistics show Glasgow has overtaken Dundee this year with the highest drug misuse death rate of all local authority areas, with 44.4 people dying per 100,000 population, more than twice as high as the average across Scotland as a whole (19.8).

The lowest rates were in East Renfrewshire (9.5) and Aberdeenshire (11.1).