Drug Related Deaths in Scotland Continue to Rise

pillsDeaths in Scotland due to the misuse of a combination of drugs continues to rise.  934 people lost their lives in this way in 2017 an increase of 8% from 2016.

Scotland has been collecting statistics on drug related deaths since 1996 in an effort to target support where it is most needed.Drug Related Deaths in Scotland

Although males make up the largest number of deaths the sharpest increase is actually amongst the female population. The age group most affected is 35-44 then 45-54 so it may be an older generation of habitual drug users who are dying from the results of long term misuse.

Scotland now tops the league in the EU for drug related deaths, however, it should also be noted that not every country uses the same recording procedure. All UK countries do use the same coding and Scotland is well above the other nations.

The NHS area with the highest number of drug related deaths is Greater Glasgow and Clyde.

drug related deaths

As you can see from these figures Orkney had 1 death in 2017, however, closer examination of the statistics in the report shows that we cannot be complacent because problem drug users in the islands may vary from 30 up to 110.

A change in how coding was recording drug related deaths in 2011 means that the figures being produced in Scotland are more accurate compared to what may be the case in some EU countries. Death Certificates and Coding the Causes of Death  There is now a wider range of drugs coming under this category as new ones are manufactured. Pathologists are also able to detect small quantities of substances which would not have been found a few years ago.

Looking at the statistics year by year shows fluctuations in the number of people dying from these causes, however, the trend is upwards.

Across Scotland the drugs most implicated in the deaths were:

Benzodiazepines – 59%

Heroin/morphine – 50%

Methadone – 47%

It should be noted, therefore, that many of the drugs involved in the deaths may be  prescribed ones and not all from illegal sources. 

Orkney Drug Dogs

Orkney Drug Dogs is a charity  for “Preventing Drug Misuse in Orkney and Keeping Orkney’s Future Generations Safe” and has a Facebook page and a website .

It aims to limit the controlled drugs which are making their way into Orkney with the provision of trained drugs dogs which are able to detect where drugs are.

A spokesperson from Orkney Drug Dogs said:

“Orkney Drugs Dog is a relatively newly formed charity with the aim of providing a service within Orkney that will work with our schools, college and community groups to raise awareness of the harm caused by the misuse of illegal drugs.

“We will assist individuals and their families to gain support from the appropriate services within our community, where illegal substance misuse is disrupting individual or family life through health deterioration or criminal activities.

“We plan to have our Handler and Dog in position by late autumn this year and through a Memorandum of Understanding with Police Scotland, they will be working alongside regular officers in the detection of drugs.

“We hope that by doing this, we will assist in “Keeping Orkney Safe for Future Generations”.

The organisation has the support of many in the community  and works collaboratively with others to improve education and information about drug misuse.


c/o 39a Victoria Street,
Kirkwall, Orkney
KW15 1DN

Reporter: Fiona Grahame


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5 replies »

  1. People consume and deal illegal drugs under threat of a death sentence, so it seems to me a drugs dog isn’t going to make much of a difference. Durham Police chief Mike Barton believes we should end the war on drugs, and he makes a compelling case: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/av/uk-24321520/end-war-on-drugs-says-durham-police-chief-mike-barton Hopefully Northern Constabulary and Orkney will adopt a harm reduction approach, rather than criminalising individuals.

  2. Clearly the statistics show a need for employing a full time dog handler and a valuable specially trained animal since drug related deaths, the percentage of Drug users per population and asscociated crime being such an issue in Orkney…..does all the people that support this live in another orkney? How about instead of wasting money on a pointless drug dog which will be totally ineffective at stopping drugs entering our shores, why not try and actually make a positive difference on our island by maybe using your misguided funding for perhaps a MENTAL HEALTH NURSE……of which is urgently needed . Even the statistics show its not illegal drugs which are the cause of most drug related deaths in Scotland and I know for fact that at least 2 of the deaths in Orkney over the last few years were from legal or prescribed drugs. I actually find the naivety of this quest hilarious.

  3. Thanks for this informative article. Dogs really are mans best friend ! protecting us and helping educate about issues like drugs. Drug dogs visiting schools is great. It is important to protect the young given the teenage brain is not fully formed and that drug use can disrupt the growing myelin sheath in the brain. I am all for legalising cannabis for medical conditions but young folks brains are more vulnerable and drug education can deter experimentation (at least till they are a bit older) and protect them. Good work Orkney Drugs Dogs.

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