SCOTLAND has seen drug-related deaths decrease in 2022, according to latest statistics published by National Records of Scotland (NRS).

A total of 1051 people died due to drug misuse last year, a decrease of 279 deaths compared with 2021, representing the lowest number of drug misuse deaths since 2017.

Of the 1051 people who died a drugs-related death in 2022, 359 were women and 692 men. This was a drop of 10% on 2021's figures for women, and 26% for men. 

Despite this fall, drug misuse deaths are still more common than they were two decades ago. After adjusting for age, there were 3.7 times as many drug misuse deaths in 2022 as in the year 2000.

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The highest number of suspected drug deaths over the last five years were in Glasgow City and Dundee City, while East Renfrewshire and Aberdeenshire had the lowest rates.

Opiates and opioids, including heroin, morphine and methadone, were implicated in more than 8 out of 10 drug-related deaths in 2022.

READ MORE: There's no magic bullet, but 'war on drugs' is causing untold harm

The majority of drug misuse deaths were classified as accidental poisonings, with 7% classed as intentional self-poisonings.

The rate of drug poisoning deaths in Scotland was 2.7 times as high as the UK average in 2021, the most recent year that data is available for the UK as a whole.

Drug deaths by sex

After adjusting for age, there were 13.3 deaths per 100,000 females and 26.6 deaths per 100,000 males in 2022. This means that males were twice as likely to have a drug misuse death as females. This gap has narrowed in recent years.

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The average age of people who died from drug misuse deaths has increased from 32 in 2000 to 45 in 2022.

In 2022, the age group with the most drug misuse deaths was 45-49 (191 deaths) closely followed by those age 40-44 (183 deaths).

Figures show the age profile of drug misuse deaths has become older over time.

In 2000, 68% of all drug misuse deaths were of people under 35, 29% in those aged 35-54 and just 3% in people aged 55+. By contrast, in 2022, 19% of all drug misuse deaths were in people aged under 35, 63% in those aged 35-54 and 18% in those aged 55 and over.

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Julie Ramsay, head of demographic statistics at NRS, said: “While drug misuse deaths have been rising over the last two decades, with a particularly sharp increase after 2013, today’s statistics show the biggest year on year decrease since the series began.

“The statistics provide some insight into the people who are most likely to die from drug misuse.

“Those living in the most deprived areas of Scotland are almost 16 times as likely to die from drug misuse compared to people living in the least deprived areas.

“Males are twice as likely to die from drug misuse than females, however the fall in deaths in 2022 was much larger for males than for females.

“The age profile of drug misuse deaths has become older over time, the average age of people who died from drug misuse deaths has increased from 32 in 2000 to 45 in 2022."

Leading drugs campaigner Peter Krykant reacted to the figures online, writing: "1051 drug deaths in Scotland for 2022 is still far to high, it must be acknowledged this is the lowest since 2017 & 279 less deaths than 2021, but we must get on with more action.

"With synthetics drugs appearing we need Overdose Prevention Site, DAT & drug checking right now!"

Diamorphine Assisted Treatment (DAT) involves medically supervised, prescribed, injectable doses of an opioid substitute (usually diamorphine) for the treatment of opioid use disorder.

Scotland’s drugs and alcohol policy minister Elena Whitham MSP said: “My sympathy goes out to all those affected by the loss of a loved one through drugs.

“While I am pleased to see that hundreds of families have been spared this agony and lives have been saved, every life lost is a tragedy and the number of deaths is still too high.

“I will never underestimate the scale of the challenge we continue to face, including responding to new threats such as synthetic opioids and stimulant use.

“I can see that our work across Scotland, where we have already supported 300 grass-roots projects, including ‘Back on the Road’, is gathering pace, and I’m grateful to all those delivering vital services.”