Figures published today by National Records Scotland show that in 2019, 1,264 people lost their lives to a drug-related death (a 6% increase). This is the highest number of drug-related deaths in Scotland ever recorded, for the sixth year in a row.

Public Health Scotland promotes and develops a public health approach to preventing harms from drugs. Working in collaboration with a wide range of partners to do this, we promote inclusive, safe, effective and timely care and support for everyone affected.

We know that traumatic experiences, particularly in childhood, poor mental wellbeing, limited life opportunities and economic hardship are underlying contributory factors to problem drug use. Preventing drug harms requires us to work across all of these areas and to work in communities and directly with the people who are affected by drug use.

Dr Tara Shivaji, Head of the Drugs Team at Public Health Scotland, said:

"The number of people who died of a drug-related death in Scotland in 2019 is unacceptably high. Each one of these deaths is a tragedy, and we cannot underestimate the impact of those losses on individuals, families and communities across the country.

"People who become dependent on drugs come from all backgrounds and walks of life. Any of us could be affected. We encourage anyone who feels that their own or someone’ else’s drug use is causing them harm to try to reach out for help.  

"These deaths are preventable. With compassion and support from joined-up services, creating hope for people in need, and laws that seek to reduce harm, we can save lives".

Drug and alcohol treatment and support services remain open during COVID-19. For support with your own or a family member or friends drug use, please visit NHS Inform.

Last updated: 06 October 2022