SUSPECTED drug deaths in Scotland have risen by 13% in the first nine months of the year, new figures have shown.

There were 900 suspected deaths due to drug misuse between January and September, 103 more than the same period last year.

Figures published by the Scottish Government show that suspected drug deaths are on the rise again after previously being on a downward trend.

Between July and September this year, there were 300 deaths suspected to be linked to drugs.

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This was 1% (two deaths) fewer than the previous quarter, but 28% (65 deaths) more than during the same quarter last year.

The majority of the deaths (72%) were men, with 645 losing their life, an increase of 89 (16%) from the same period in 2022, when the figure was 556.

Female suspected drug deaths are also on the rise, with 255 (28%) reported, an increase of 14 (6%) from the same period last year, when the number was 241.

The majority of those who died (66%) were aged between 35 and 54, in line with previous years figures.

Greater Glasgow (231), Lanarkshire (108) and Edinburgh City (99) saw the highest number of suspected drug deaths compared to other areas, according to the figures reported by Police Scotland.

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Liam Mehigan (above), operations director of the Abbeycare Group, which runs a specialist residential rehabilitation and detoxification service in Erskine, said the figures were a “stark reminder” of the harm drugs can do.

“We know that behind every one of these deaths will be a family left devastated,” he said. 

“In Scotland there are many excellent services that are designed to support people, whether that be using substances safely, reducing harm or at different stages of their recovery journey, and these can all be part of the solution to the nation’s drugs deaths crisis.

“At Abbeycare, we offer specialist residential rehabilitation and detoxification services, as well as counselling, aftercare support and family support for those in recovery from drugs and alcohol addictions.”

Drug and Alcohol Policy Minister Elena Whitham said that the number of deaths are “still too high” and that "every life lost is a tragedy" in response to the latest figures.

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“Through our National Mission on drugs, I’m focused on supporting those affected by problem substance use, delivering real change on the ground and implementing evidence-based approaches to improve and save lives,” she said.

“As well as moves towards establishing a safe drug consumption facility pilot in Glasgow, we’re taking a wide range of measures and National Mission funds have now backed more than 300 grassroots projects.

"As the threat grows from the unexpected presence in the drug supply from highly potent synthetic opioids such as nitazenes which bring increased risks of overdose and death, we have also developed our surveillance abilities.

The National: Elena Whitham

“Our Rapid Action Drug Alerts and Response reports and other measures play a vital part in providing an early warning of emerging drug trends.

"We're also committed to delivering drug-checking facilities which would also enable us to respond faster to these trends.”

In September, the Lord Advocate gave the greenlight for a safe drug consumption room pilot to go ahead in Glasgow in a bid to tackle the number of deaths.

While the policy is reserved to the Home Office, UK ministers including Alister Jack said that they would not intervene in the trial.