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Scottish drug statistics show decrease in drug-related deaths

Widely known for its unacceptably high drug-related death rates, Scotland’s latest statistics bring a slight ray of hope to the concerning status quo. The National Records of Scotland reported that 1,051 people died of drug misuse in 2022, constituting 279 fewer deaths than those recorded for the previous year.


Dubbed the drug death capital of Europe, this is the country’s lowest drug death rate in five years. Despite the decrease, Scotland’s drug death rates remain the highest in the UK and Europe and are still three times more prevalent than 20 years ago.


Prevalence of Scottish drug deaths


Hard drugs, including opiates and opioids such as heroin, morphine and methadone, caused eight in every 10 of the recorded drug deaths in 2022. Authorities classified most of these as poisonings, of which 7% were classed as self-poisonings.


Scotland’s drug poisoning deaths were 2.7 times higher than the UK average in 2021. The National Records of Scotland first noticed a prominent spike in drug deaths in 2013, which, up to now, increased or remained the same. The authority confirmed that the latest numbers are the lowest since 1996.


In spite of this decrease, drug deaths were still 3.7 times higher than those recorded in 2000. Glasgow City and Dundee are the frontrunners and had the highest instance of drug misuse over the past five years. East Renfrewshire and Aberdeenshire reported the lowest drug misuse and death numbers.


According to the statistics, twice as many men die from drug misuse as women. The numbers also show that the age profile of users rose and averages approximately 45 years at present.


The highest number of drug deaths on record is 1,339 – roughly 25.2 per 100,000 people in 2020. For 2022, this breakdown totalled 19.8 deaths for every 100,000 people.


How drug misuse and death statistics inform treatment approaches


Statistics on drug misuse and drug deaths provide insights that help authorities devise strategies to tackle the problem. When combined with a systematic drug testing programme, the statistics help with:


  • Identifying which demographic of the population is prone to misuse and overdoses, such as those in deprived areas.
  • Tracing which drugs are used the most and which cause the highest number of deaths to adjust treatment approaches.
  • Knowing where to establish supervised drug use facilities based on community needs.
  • Monitoring the macro effect on families and communities and implementing measures for secondary support structures.


Drug testing results not only inform statistics but also guide responsible parties in forming the best approach to deal with drug misuse problems. Partnering with Matrix Diagnostics, drug and alcohol testing specialists, helps with the overall success of a treatment programme, such as supervised drug use facilities or safe injection sites.


A Matrix Diagnostics multi-drug dip card delivers results in just five minutes. This means that authorities can gain a wealth of information in no time and implement actions that address the issue at its roots.

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