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Last Updated: Thursday, 26 August, 2004, 09:42 GMT 10:42 UK
New figures show drug deaths fall
Diazepam tablets
Diazepam tablets were involved in 153 deaths, the report says
The number of people who died from drug-related deaths fell last year, according to figures from the Registrar General for Scotland.

There were 317 such fatalities, 65 fewer than the previous year.

The registrar general's report was published a day after similar figures for 2003 were released by the Scottish Drugs Enforcement Agency (SDEA).

They too showed a fall, from 311 to 226. The two sets of figures were compiled using different criteria.

BBC Scotland home affairs correspondent Reevel Alderson said the SDEA's figures reflected deaths dealt with by police.

These include addicts found dead with drug-taking equipment present and those whom a post-mortem examination revealed had taken illegal drugs.

Every death represents a tragic waste of life
Hugh Henry
Deputy Justice Minister
The figures issued by the registrar general reflect all of the deaths attributable to drug-related causes in the year 2003.

Apart from those detailed in the police statistics, they include the deaths of addicts whose bodies have simply failed because of long-term abuse, suicides with a drugs overdose and those who have died accidentally through the involvement of drugs.

The registrar general's report showed that of the 317 deaths last year, heroin/morphine was involved in 175, diazepam in 153 and methadone in 87.

Geographical breakdown

The highest number of deaths, 107, was in the Greater Glasgow Health Board area. There were 40 in Lothian and 37 in Grampian.

Deputy Justice Minister Hugh Henry welcomed the fall but said further action was needed to reduce drug fatalities.

"Every death represents a tragic waste of life and many will involve combinations of drugs, including alcohol, which serves to underline the chaotic and dangerous lifestyles which many of the victims will have had," he said.

But Scottish Drugs Forum director David Liddell warned: "We've seen such a substantial rise in the numbers of drug-related deaths that to actually bring it under control is going to take a fair bit longer."

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