Drug deaths on the rise despite decline

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By Cara Sulieman

THE NUMBER of drug related deaths in Scotland is going up, despite a decrease in the last year.

Figures published today show that in 2009 there were 545 drug related deaths in Scotland, 29 less than the year before.

But the numbers are the second highest ever recorded by the Register General for Scotland and it looks as though they are going to keep rising.

The vast majority of the deaths were of men, standing at 76 per cent.

The Scottish Government said it was doing its best to make sure the upward trend doesn’t continue and are introducing new drugs to try and reduce the number of drug related deaths.

Most of the deaths were attributed to heroin and morphine, with 59 per cent having one of these drugs in their system.

Methadone was second, claiming 32 per cent of the lives in the figures.

The numbers reveal that 25 to 44 year olds are more likely to die from drug use, with the age group 35 to 44 hardest hit with 35 per cent of the deaths in this bracket.

And 33 per cent of the deaths were of 25 to 34 year olds.

It was Scotland’s largest city that recorded the highest number of deaths – the Greater Glasgow and Clyde Health Board are accounted for 37 per cent of the total deaths.

Community Safety Minister Fergus Ewing said: “Fewer people lost to drug use is always good news, but we must acknowledge that these figures remain high.

“It is clear we continue to face a challenge to help steer people away from problem drug use and towards recovery.”

Mr Ewing announced the use of naloxone across Scotland – a drug which reverses the effects of overdoses from opiates like heroin and gives more time for treatment to be given.

The chairman of the National Forum on Drug Related Deaths, Dr Roy Robertson, said that he hoped drug initiatives put in place now would have an impact on future numbers.

He said: “Taking into account what we have experienced in the past concerning the general upward trend in figures, this year’s drug related deaths show a similar pattern to previous years.

“Any reduction is, however, welcome as each death is a personal tragedy and a family and community disaster.”

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