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Last Updated: Thursday, 28 August, 2003, 16:08 GMT 17:08 UK
Drug death toll rises
Drugs graphic
More drugs addicts are dying
Drug deaths in Scotland are on the increase, according to official figures.

Statistics from the Registrar General for Scotland show 382 users lost their lives after taking drugs last year, a rise of 15%.

Ministers are so concerned at the rise that they have launched the biggest probe of its kind into Scotland's drug-taking culture.

They are concerned, in particular, that well over half the victims were older drug takers.

The death toll includes 153 people in their late 20s or early 30s and 92 were aged 35 to 45.

David Liddell, of the Scottish Drugs Forum, argues that more help needs to be offered to older addicts.

He said that, for long-term users, the need for higher amounts of drugs to maintain their habit increases the risk of overdose.

David Liddell, of the Scottish Drugs Forum, argues that more help needs to be offered to older addicts.

He said: "Users with a long history of drug use are at particular risk because of the long-term impact of drugs on their bodies.

"It is essential that jobs, training and education opportunities are made available as soon as possible to users who want to change their lives."


He added: "It is extremely depressing to see this record number of drugs deaths in Scotland.

"The figures underline the continuing need to tackle the root causes of problem drug use as well as to improve the wide range of treatment, services and education necessary to minimise harm to drug users.

"There is a clear need for overdose training to be given to the drug using community and those who live and work with them.

"This could cut down the number of deaths people haven't got the vital first aid skills when they find their friend or relation unconscious."

Deputy Justice Minister Hugh Henry said: "We want to look at the mixture of drugs involved and at the personal circumstances.

"Following the analysis we will hopefully come up with a better idea, and some suggestions, about what we should do to tackle this unacceptable problem."

Heroin continues to be the drug most likely to kill, and there has been a substantial rise in the number of cases in which methadone was involved.

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