The latest report on drug-related deaths in Scotland from The National Records of Scotland was published on Thursday 28 July. It highlights that 1,330 people sadly lost their lives to drug misuse in Scotland in 2021, representing a 1% decrease from 2020. 

Of those who died from the misuse of drugs, 65% were aged between 35 and 54 years old and more than two thirds (70%) were men.

The College published a report in 2021 which backed the introduction of safe consumption facilities, a nationwide herion-assisted treatment programme, and consideration of the decriminalisation of the possession of drugs. The report can be read below.

Commeting on the latest NRS figures, Professor Roy Robertson, expert on drug-related harms and Fellow of The Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh said:

The NRS drug-related deaths figures for 2021 are the latest in a long running series, showing the serious impacts of drug use in the Scottish population. As an annual reminder of the harms caused by drugs, the NRS figures are an important opportunity to reflect on progress, as well as what more could be done.

The Scottish Government Taskforce on drug-related deaths reported last week with a wide range of recommendations, 139 in total. What happens next is unclear but the Scottish Government has been asked to respond before the end of the year with a plan.

We need a strategy for expanding knowledge and education, both of which are critical in understanding and responding to a medical crisis affecting many areas of medicine. It would be proper to see policy-makers engaged with educational and academic institutions as well as clinicians, and we’d like to see a strategy that could put addictions on the same footing as other major health departments.

Alcohol, smoking, heroin and cocaine account for an incredible amount of health harms and deaths. The impact of gambling, recreational drugs and internet access to an expanding range of substances requires a formal long-term vision.

Paul Gillen

Contact: Paul Gillen 0131 247 3658
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