Subscribe to Holyrood updates

Newsletter sign-up


Follow us

Scotland’s fortnightly political & current affairs magazine


Subscribe to Holyrood
by Louise Wilson
15 March 2022
Thousands more die from suspected drug deaths in 2021

A demonstration on International Overdose Awareness Day in Glasgow last year | Alamy Stock Photo

Thousands more die from suspected drug deaths in 2021

Thousands of Scots died from suspected drug deaths in 2021, figures from Police Scotland estimate.

Between January and December last year, 1,295 people lost their lives from a suspected overdose.

Official figures from the National Records of Scotland will not be published until July, though these figures suggest there may have been a slightly decline from the peak of 1,339 drug-related deaths in 2020.

In recent years, the number of suspected drug deaths recorded by Police Scotland have been higher than the official NRS figure.

Drugs minister Angela Constance said the number was “still far too high”.

She said: “I want to extend my deepest sympathy to all those affected by the loss of a loved one through drugs.

“I know that despite this decline in the number of suspected drug deaths, the figure is still far too high and, as I have said before there is much hard work to be done to turn this public health emergency around.”

A breakdown of the 2021 statistics found the majority of drug deaths were male (73 per cent) and two-thirds were between 35 and 54.

The Greater Glasgow area continued to record the highest number of drug deaths at 328, followed by Lanarkshire (139), Ayrshire (109) and the North East (106).

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon declared a “national mission” to tackle drug deaths in January last year, after numbers more than doubled since 2013.

Her government has set aside £250m over the course of this parliament to respond to the problem, including intervention programmes and residential rehab.

Scottish Lib Dem leader Alex Cole-Hamilton has called for the establishment of a World Health Organization taskforce to further consider Scotland's drug deaths, which are the worst in Europe.

He said: "This is a crisis of international significance... Scotland clearly needs to go further and faster. We also need a watertight strategy focused on diverting people at risk into treatment and education instead of prison, fast access support for them and their families and accessible drug testing."

Holyrood Newsletters

Holyrood provides comprehensive coverage of Scottish politics, offering award-winning reporting and analysis: Subscribe

Read the most recent article written by Louise Wilson - John Swinney: Voting SNP will ‘intensify pressure’ to hold independence referendum.

Get award-winning journalism delivered straight to your inbox

Get award-winning journalism delivered straight to your inbox


Popular reads
Back to top