Lanarkshire has been identified as one of the worst-affected NHS areas hit by an increase in drug-related deaths.
With the 2016 death rate in Lanarkshire climbing by 40 to 113, the area showed the third-biggest increase, behind only Glasgow and Lothian, in a report on drug-related fatalities in Scotland which has just been published by National Records of Scotland.
The report adds that the over-35 age group accounted for 72% (626) of the total number of drug deaths in 2016. The median age at the time of death continues to be 41 years old. This is consistent with the same trends seen in recent years of the publication.
The total number of drug deaths has risen by 23% between 2015 and 2016 – from 706 to 867.
The number of people dying from a drug-related death in the under 24 age bracket accounted for 5% (42) of the total number of drug deaths.
These statistics show that the health risks faced by an ageing cohort of drug users remain a key challenge for Scotland.
Aileen Campbell, Minister for Public Health said: “I would like to offer my sympathies to anyone affected by the loss of someone who has died as a result of drug use. Each number represents an untimely death and is a tragedy. We are continuing to do all we can to prevent others from experiencing this heartbreak.
“We are dealing with a very complex problem in Scotland - a legacy of drugs misuse stretching back decades. What we are seeing is an ageing group of people who are long term drugs users. They have a pattern of addiction which is very difficult to break, and they have developed other chronic medical conditions as a result of this prolonged drugs use.
“Unfortunately, there is a general trend of increasing drug-related deaths across the UK and in many other parts of Europe.
Dave Liddell, Chief Executive, Scottish Drugs Forum said: “The fatal drug overdose deaths are personal tragedies for the individuals and their families, and clearly of a scale which is a national tragedy that requires a fundamental rethink of our approach
Chief Superintendent John McKenzie, Police Scotland, said: “The tragedy of drug related deaths and the impact on families across Scotland is recognised by Police Scotland and we will continue to work in collaboration to support communities and improve wellbeing.
“The figures today continue to emphasise the health implications.”