Drug-related deaths

Drug-related deaths

Relatively small numbers of drug-related deaths makes analysis of trends within sub-populations difficult to do by council area. For this reason the main trends by population group are shown for Scotland as a whole. Overall drug-related death rates by local authority are shown at the bottom of the page.

Number of drug-related deaths in Scotland over time

Scot drugdeaths overtimeClick on graph to expand

Since the mid-1990s drug-related deaths have increased in Scotland from 244 in 1996 to 867 in 2016, this is an increase of more than 250%.

Number of drug-related deaths in Scotland by sex

scot drugdeaths overtime sexClick on graph to expand

Men are more likely to suffer a drug-related death, but since 1996 drug-related deaths have increased proportionally in both men and women across Scotland.

Rate of drug-related deaths in Scotland by age

scot drugdeaths overtime ageClick on graph to expand

In 2000 drug-related deaths were more common in the younger two age groups – those under 25 years of age and those 25 to 34 years of age. By 2016 the age pattern of drug-related deaths had changed notably:

  • Drug-related deaths increased in all age groups with the exception of those under 25. In this age group the annual number of drug-related deaths fell from 73 per year in 2000 to 42 per year in 2016.
  • The sharpest rise in drug-related deaths was in those aged between 35 and 44 years. Between 2000 and 2016 drug related deaths in this age group rose from 69 to 327 per year.

Rate of drug-related deaths by council area

scot drugdeaths LA 201314Click on graph to expand

There is a large variation in the rate of drug-related deaths across the council areas in Scotland – Glasgow City is among the three council areas with the largest number of deaths per population. In 2016 there were 170 drug-related deaths in Glasgow, up from 84 in 2001.

These figures do not take into account different age structures of the council areas; however it is unlikely that the different age structures could account for these large differences.

Numbers of drug-related deaths by council area over time

drugdeaths scotcities overtimeClick on graph to expand

[Note this graph shows the total number of drug-related deaths not the number per population.]

Although the number of drug-related deaths in Glasgow has fluctuated since 2001 the general trend has been increasing drug-related deaths in the city: in 2001 there were 84 drug-related deaths and in 2016 this rose to 170.


These data were taken from Drug-Related Deaths in Scotland in 2016, a National Records for Scotland publication.

Drug-related deaths are identified from death registrations and a specially-designed questionnaire completed by forensic pathologists. The forensic pathologists list the drugs and solvents identified for the deceased.  For further details please refer to the above report.

The latest official figures on drug-related deaths in Scotland (up to 2016) are available from National Records of Scotland.

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