Drug-related deaths in England and Wales reached their highest level in 2020, while Scotland’s drug-related death rate was 3.5 times higher than the UK overall

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Drug-related deaths in England, Wales, and Scotland reached a record high in 2020, according to the latest figures.
The Scottish data published by the National Records of Scotland showed 1339 drug-related deaths in 2020, a 5% rise over the previous year. It is also the highest annual figure ever recorded. Scotland’s drug-related death rate was more than 3.5-fold higher than the overall rate for the UK.

Drug-related deaths in Scotland have been on the rise since 1996; however, the rise has been sharper since 2013. Individuals aged 35–54 years accounted for 63% of all drug-related deaths in 2020. The highest death rate was recorded in Greater Glasgow and Clyde NHS Board area at 30.8 per 100,000 population.

The Scottish Drugs Policy Minister Angela Constance stated that the rise in drug-related deaths in Scotland was ‘heart-breaking’ and that the Government will continue to tackle this crisis strongly. A national mission was earlier announced in January 2021, with £250 million allocated towards reducing drug-related deaths over the next 5 years.

Professor Catriona Matheson who heads the Drug Deaths Taskforce in Scotland said: ‘Every drug-related death in Scotland is an avoidable tragedy, and these figures serve to remind us of the importance and urgency of our mission to identify the areas of action that can make a sustainable impact against the challenge.’

The Office for National Statistics reported 4561 deaths related to drug poisoning across England and Wales in 2020, the highest annual figure since 1993, when reporting began. This translates to a rate of 79.5 deaths per million population, slightly higher than 76.7 deaths per million in 2019.

Drug misuse accounted for two-thirds of the drug-related deaths in England and Wales, and such deaths were highest among individuals aged 45–49 years. Opiates were involved in nearly half of all drug poisoning deaths in 2020.

Last week, in response to an independent review of drug misuse by Dame Carol Black, England’s Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, Secretary of State for the Home Department, and Sponsor Minister for Combating Drug Misuse jointly stated: ‘We have a moral duty to do everything we can to tackle the impact of drug misuse—whether it’s coming down hard on those who supply drugs, making sure children are no longer pressured to misuse drugs or get drawn into supplying them, or reforming the treatment and recovery system to help people overcome drug misuse.’

This article originally appeared on Univadis, part of the Medscape Professional Network.