722 suspected drug deaths in first half of 2021
Over 700 people have died from a suspected drug death in the first half of 2021, new government statistics have confirmed.
The figure is down slightly from the same period last year, when 731 drug-related deaths were recorded.
Drugs minister Angela Constance said the government could “very cautiously take some encouragement” from the figures.
They cover the first six months after the government made tackling the high death rate a “national mission” and Constance took over responsibility for the issue from former public health minister Joe Fitzpatrick.
These latest statistics come from Police Scotland management information and will now be published every quarter going forward.
Constance told MSPs on the health committee this morning: “This information on suspected drug deaths will help services to respond to what is needed more quickly and will also help parliament monitor progress. It provides a barometer of drug death trends over time.
“We can very cautiously take some encouragement from what appears to be a very slightly lower figure of suspected drug deaths than for the same period last year – but I do want to stress there is a long way to go here. Whether suspected drug-related deaths or actual drug-related deaths, both remain too high in Scotland today.”
The majority of suspected drug deaths were men (72 per cent) and just over two-thirds were people between ages 35 and 54.
The greatest number of suspected drug deaths were recorded in Greater Glasgow (187), followed by Lanarkshire (67), Edinburgh (64) and Tayside (64).
Between April and June 2021, 329 suspected drug deaths were recorded – 20 per cent fewer than the same quarter in 2020.
But the statistics continue to show a “general upward trend”.
Scottish Conservative shadow drugs minister, Sue Webber, said: "Nicola Sturgeon has to start listening to frontline experts and tackle the wider drug death crisis by backing our Right to Recovery Bill, which would finally guarantee everyone who needs treatment can get it.
"It is on her watch that the drug death crisis has spiralled out of control. She took her eye off the ball and left vulnerable people with nowhere to turn to for help. These new figures show she’s still not focused on this crisis."
And Scottish Labour shadow drugs minister Claire Baker said: "It’s good to see more regular information being published, but it’s more important that it shows things moving in the right direction.
"We don’t need more expressions of regret from ministers – we need action to save lives. The government must act with the urgency needed."