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  1. ITV Report

Scotland sees highest number of drugs deaths in EU, according to new statistics

Credit: PA

The number of drug-related deaths in Scotland rose to 1,187 in 2018, according to official statistics.

There were 1,187 drug-related deaths registered. For the first time ever, the number has risen above 1,000, up 27% on the previous year.

22
deaths in the Scottish Borders in 2018.
20
deaths in Dumfries and Galloway in 2018.

The National Records of Scotland statistics indicate Scotland's drug death rate is nearly triple the UK rate and the highest in the European Union.

The issue is bigger than that of the US.

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It is at its highest level since current records began in 1996 and more than double the 2008 figure of 574.

The health board area with the highest proportion of drug deaths in 2018 was Greater Glasgow and Clyde at 394 (33%).

Deaths from opiates or opioids, such as heroin, morphine, or methadone, were implicated in, or potentially contributed to, 1,021 deaths.

For benzodiazepines such as diazepam and etizolam, this figure was 792.

Men accounted for the majority of the drug-related deaths. The 35-44 age group was associated with the most deaths at 442, followed by those aged 45-54.

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The Scottish government has vowed to get a grip on the spiralling number of deaths relating to drugs.

Scotland's Public Health Minister Joe FitzPatrick said the country faces an "emergency" on this issue.

He said: "The number of people who have lost their lives because of drug use is shocking.

"It is vital this tragedy is treated as a public health issue, and we are prepared to take innovative and bold measures in order to save the lives of those most at risk."

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NHS Borders Alcohol & Drugs Partnership (ADP) continues to take a proactive approach to tackling the increased prevalence of problem drug use.

A new multi-agency ‘Assertive Engagement Service’ has been commissioned from April 2019 which aims to remove barriers to accessing drug and alcohol services and reduce the harms (including alcohol and drug related death) associated with problem alcohol and drug use.”

– NHS Borders
  • What do the new figures show for Scotland?

From the 1,187 deaths, methadone - a synthetic opiate used as an alternative to heroin which is prescribed by doctors - was implicated in, or potentially contributed to, 560 deaths.

Heroin and/ or morphine were also implicated in, or potentially contributed to, the cause of 537 deaths.

In total, 1,021 deaths were related to heroin or other opiates.

Benzodiazepines - a class of psychoactive drugs which includes anti-anxiety drugs - were involved in 575 drug deaths.

Most of the drug-related deaths are of people who took more than one substance. Just 68 of the 1,187 deaths where only one drug, and possibly alcohol, contributed or possibly contributed to the cause of death.

More than three people a day die from drugs in 2018.

Of Scotland's estimated 5.4million population, there are an estimated 58,900 problem drug-users in the country.