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Wednesday, 7 August, 2002, 10:37 GMT 11:37 UK
Drug deaths in Scotland soar
A drug addict injecting
The number of drug-related deaths has risen by 14%
Drug misuse is killing more people in Scotland than ever before, according to figures which have revealed a 14% rise in drug deaths.

The new statistics, which reveal there was a drug-related death almost every day in 2001, point to a rise in the number of deaths where cocaine and Ecstasy are factors.

The news prompted a Scottish Executive pledge to improve the provision of treatment and to make better information about drug misuse more widely available.

The figures, compiled by the Registrar General for Scotland, reveal that 332 drug users died in 2001 - an increase of 40 over 2000 and 88 more than in 1996.

About one third of the people who died were not classed as being drug-dependent or addicts, but the number of addicts who died rose from 220 in 2000 to 227 in 2001.

The figures also revealed:

  • 65% (216) of the deaths were attributed to heroin and morphine, making them the biggest killers

  • Diazepam and methadone accounted for a large number of the remaining deaths

  • The highest number of deaths (96) was in the Greater Glasgow Health Board area

  • There were 54 deaths in Lothian, up from 37 in 2000

  • Grampian saw its level of drug deaths rise from 31 in 2000 to 46 in 2001, while in Ayrshire and Arran the rise was from 20 to 35.

Deputy justice minister Richard Simpson said he was "deeply concerned" about the figures and called for better information to enable users to get all the help they could to tackle their addictions.

Dr Simpson said: "I am deeply concerned at these figures which continue to highlight the dreadful toll drugs take on our communities.

Dr Richard Simpson
Dr Richard Simpson said he was worried by the rise

"Too many people are still risking their lives by taking drugs."

He said health officials and ministers had to get the message across that all drugs were harmful.

Dr Simpson also said he was worried about an increase in the number of cocaine and Ecstasy related deaths, drugs which accounted for more than half the total increase in 2001.

Commenting on this, he said he backed the UK Government's decision not to re-classify Ecstasy from a Class A to Class B drug , saying "Ecstasy can, and does, kill unpredictably".

Dr Simpson added: "The figures show, in particular, that people who take cocktails of drugs, often involving alcohol too, are playing a dangerous game with their lives.

Heroin
Heroin and methadone remain the biggest killers

"Every death of a friend or relative through drugs is a needless loss and we must make sure we learn lessons from those involved which can help us work to prevent further deaths."

The executive has invested 130m over three years to tackle the drugs problem - including prevention, education, treatment and care.

But speaking during a visit to the Milton clinic of the Glasgow Drug Problem Service, Dr Simpson said many users now had a long wait for treatment and that this problem had to be addressed "as a matter for urgency".

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
Alexandra Mackenzie reports
"Last year there were 96 drug related deaths in the Glasgow area"
See also:

01 Aug 02 | Scotland
16 Jul 02 | Scotland
03 Mar 02 | Scotland
15 Nov 01 | Scotland
24 Jul 01 | Scotland
01 Dec 00 | Scotland
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