**Press Release** Huge Rise in Scottish Drug Deaths Was Avoidable


Press Release

For immediate release

15th August 2017


Huge Rise in Scottish Drug Deaths Was Avoidable

The latest drug related deaths statistics were published today by National Records for Scotland - and they make for shocking reading. 867  people died from illegal drug overdoses in Scotland in 2016, 23% higher than in 2015 - a record level for the third year in a row.  At 160.4 per million, Scotland’s drug death rate is the highest in Europe, and over 27 times that of Portugal, at 5.8 deaths per million.

  • 473 for heroin/morphine was 128 more than the previous largest number, 345 in 2015;

  • 362 for methadone was 87 more than its previous peak of 275 in 2011;

  • 765 for any opiate or opioid was 159 more than its previous largest number, 606 in 2015;

  • 426 for any benzodiazepine was 230 more than its most recent peak of 196 in 2012

  • 123 for cocaine was 30 more than its previous largest number, which was 93 in 2015.


Martin Powell, Transform Drug Policy Foundation said; “The SNP government must stand up for Scots and end this avoidable drug death carnage because the UK government won’t. Leaders in Holyrood can stop droves of young, poor and vulnerable people dying by following the advice of  the UK government’s own advisers. Decriminalise drug users, introduce safer drug consumption rooms, prescribe heroin, and properly fund treatment to end the scandal of Scotland’s drug death rate being over 27 times that of countries like Portugal. And longer term, to protect our communities we will need to explore legally regulating drug supply to reduce crime, and steer people towards safer products.”


Jolene Crawford of the Anyone’s Child Project, "It is with a very heavy heart that I read the news of drug deaths in Scotland rising again to a record high, which translates as many more families enduring the agony of losing a loved one, like our family did. The evidence proves that the Scottish Executive has the potential to prevent these deaths, and I wonder, how many more must die before real action is taken?”



Martin Powell, Head of Campaigns,  07875 679 301



  1. The National Records of Scotland 2017 drug related deaths statistics are available from https://www.nrscotland.gov.uk/statistics-and-data/statistics/statistics-...

  2. The UK government’s official advisers - the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs have recommended drug consumption rooms, heroin prescribing, increased funding for treatment and not criminalising users on a number of occasions. https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/reducing-opioid-related-death...

  3. Transform Drug Policy Foundation is a UK and Mexico based think tank campaigning for the legal regulation of drugs www.tdpf.org.uk   

  4. Read more about Jolene and Katrina’s story at Anyone’s Child: Families for Safer Drug Control http://anyoneschild.org/katrina/

  5. A graph showing the countries with the highest death rates in Europe can be found on page 79 of http://www.emcdda.europa.eu/system/files/publications/4541/TDAT17001ENN....

  6. Portugal and Switzerland have aging drug users - but they are not dying of overdoses. At 160.4 deaths per million Scotland’s death rate is 27.6 times that of Portugal (5.8 per million) where deaths fell dramatically across all ages after it decriminalised possession of drugs in 2001, encouraging people to seek help, and putting money saved into treatment (EMCDDA 2017). Drug decriminalisation in Portugal: setting the record straight http://www.tdpf.org.uk/blog/drug-decriminalisation-portugal-setting-record-straight

No one has died from an overdose, anywhere in the world, ever, in a supervised drug consumption room (EMCDDA 2017).