Tox Tuesday: Scotland records highest-ever number of annual drug deaths

Sadly, a record has been broken again in Scotland: the country has yet again recorded a new high for yearly drug deaths, at 934 in 2017. This is an 8% increase from the previous year, and more than double the figure from 2007.

Roughly 40% of the figure involves people aged 35–44, and just under a third were aged 45–54. Most were males — 70%, in fact, though female deaths have increased by more than 200% since 2013.

What might be to blame? Opioids, like heroin, morphine and methadone. These drugs, which have reached crisis-levels of abuse in many parts of the world, were implicated in 87% of the deaths.

Globally, pharmaceutically produced opioids account for 76% of all non-medical prescription drug deaths. Fentanyl and carfentanil, two extremely potent opioids, are growing problems as well, especially in the U.S., and tramadol is increasingly a problem in parts of Asia and Africa.

Benzodiazepines also partially contributed to 59% of the Scottish deaths.

Scotland has the highest rate of drug deaths in the European Union, and nearly two and a half times more than the rest of the United Kingdom. Drug deaths are more frequent than traffic accident deaths.

“The sheer toll of drug-related deaths is a staggering weight carried by families and communities and the wider Scottish nation,” said David Liddell, CEO of the Scottish Drugs Forum.

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