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Last Updated: Thursday, 30 August 2007, 11:33 GMT 12:33 UK
Huge rise in Scottish drug deaths
syringes
Heroin and morphine use accounted for 62% of drug deaths
The number of drug-related deaths in Scotland has increased by a quarter, according to new figures.

The General Register Office for Scotland (Gros) said there were 421 drug-related deaths last year, 85 more than in 2005, representing a 25% rise.

Heroin or morphine use was involved in 62% of the deaths, while methadone use accounted for 23% of the total.

The statistics revealed that 83% of those who died were under the age of 45, with 16% under 25.

Almost four-fifths - 79% - of the fatalities were men.

Previously the highest ever number of drug deaths recorded in Scotland occurred in 2002 when 392 people died.

According to Gros, 280 of the deaths were a direct result of drug abuse, 51 were caused by accidental poisoning and 40 by intentional self poisoning.

Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill said a new strategy was needed to tackle the demand and supply of illicit drugs in Scotland.

A 25% increase in fatalities in just one year is extremely concerning and presents a disturbing report card of Scotland's overall drugs problem
Kenny MacAskill,
Justice Secretary

He said: "This tragic death toll highlights the true scale of the challenge we are facing - a 25% increase in fatalities in just one year is extremely concerning and presents a disturbing report card of Scotland's overall drugs problem.

"Our new strategy must tackle demand as well as supply and we will place renewed focus on education, tough enforcement, and of course new emphasis on diversion and prevention by offering more young people opportunities in sports and the arts to build self-esteem."

The Scottish Conservatives called the figures "deeply depressing and chilling".

'Zero-tolerance'

Party leader, Annabel Goldie said: "We need a clearer strategy which rehabilitates those caught up in a life of drugs and helps them on the way to abstinence, whilst at the same time adopting a zero-tolerance attitude to drugs and especially towards drug dealers.

Labour's Hugh Henry also acknowledged that a radical rethink was required.

He added: "If the issue is about more resources then Labour will back the executive if it wants to make more money available.

"But I suspect this is about more than just money and what is really needed is a radical rethink by experts working in the field."

The Liberal Democrats called the figures "very worrying indeed".

"There also needs to be a renewed effort against drug dealers, large and small, to get them off our streets", said the party's health spokesman, Ross Finnie.

'Terrible menace'

The figures did show a reduction in the number of deaths associated with cocaine and diazepam use.

In 2005, 44 people died after taking cocaine. That figure dropped to 33 last year.

Deaths from diazepam, which is associated with the abuse of other substances like heroin, peaked in 2002 but have since reduced. The drug claimed 78 lives last year.

The highest proportion of deaths occurred in the Greater Glasgow and Clyde NHS Board area, with 162 people dying through drug misuse, up 51 on the previous year.

In Grampian, 47 people died last year, up 24 on 2005's figures, while in Lothian the figure for drug-related deaths was 46.

These larger totals, however, include cases of accidental poisoning, deliberate self-poisoning, and cases where the victim's intention was unknown.

Graeme Pearson, director general of the Scottish Crime and Drug Enforcement Agency and the Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpos) spokesman on drugs, said the organisation was continuously looking for opportunities to reduce drug deaths.

He added: "The Scottish Executive policy of health, education and law enforcement is the best way to try and tackle the terrible menace of drugs that blights Scotland."

DRUG-RELATED DEATHS 2002-2006
2002 2003 2004 2005 2006
Scotland 382 317 356 336 421
Ayrshire and Arran 33 19 20 15 25
Borders - 2 2 7 2
Dumfries and Galloway 9 9 7 7 5
Fife 12 12 17 21 19
Forth Valley 24 12 16 14 24
Grampian 47 37 39 23 47
Gt Glasgow & Clyde (1) 152 131 151 111 162
Highland (1) 13 10 12 13 12
Lanarkshire 37 25 33 40 40
Lothian 39 40 36 57 46
Orkney - - - - 1
Shetland 1 - - 1 2
Tayside 14 19 23 26 35
Western Isles 1 1 - 1 1
Argyll & Clyde 31 27 35 29 36
Gt Glasgow & Clyde pt 26 24 31 26 35
Highland pt 5 3 4 3 1
Gt Glasgow (2) 126 107 120 85 127
Highland (2) 8 7 8 10 11
Source: General Register Office for Scotland




SEE ALSO
Heroin treatment at record levels
23 Jul 07 |  Scotland
Drug-related deaths soar in Fife
21 Jun 07 |  Edinburgh, East and Fife
Birth control call for methadone
11 May 06 |  Scotland
Addicts' children 'to come first'
08 May 06 |  Scotland
Drug tests for parents discussed
20 Mar 06 |  Scotland
Child concern over drugs problem
07 Mar 06 |  Scotland

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