SUSPECTED drug deaths increased by 8% in the latest three-month period, official data has shown.

The data, based on Police Scotland reports from officers attending scenes of deaths, estimated there were 320 suspected deaths in the first three months of the year – 23 more than in the October to December quarter.

It is also 7% – or 22 estimated deaths – more than during the same period of 2023.

A total of 1219 deaths were believed to be drug-related by officers in the 12-month period to March 2024 – 10%, or 114 people, more than the previous year.

In the first quarter of 2024, men accounted for 73% of the suspected drug deaths, up from 67% from the same period last year.

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However, there were 12% estimated deaths among women, with 86 down from 98 in 2023.

The data showed 61% of the suspected drug deaths were people between the ages of 35 and 54, while there were 13 estimated deaths in the under-25 group – 19% fewer than the same period of 2023.

Greater Glasgow was the police division with the greatest suspected drug deaths with 71, followed by 32 in Edinburgh City, 30 in the North East and Renfrewshire and Inverclyde divisions respectively.

Drugs and Alcohol Policy Minister Christina McKelvie said: “My sincere and heartfelt condolences go to all those who have lost a loved one through addiction.

“This is a serious issue and the Scottish Government is taking a wide range of measures to tackle drugs related deaths with our £250 million National Mission on Drugs – we’ve also backed more than 300 grassroots projects.

“We are continuing to expand residential rehabilitation capacity and are committed to delivering a £2.3m a year Safer Drug Consumption Facility pilot, which Glasgow Health and Social Care Partnership is working at pace to establish."

McKelvie added that licence applications for drug-checking facilities in Aberdeen and Dundee had been submitted and another for Glasgow would be submitted "soon". 

She said: "The City of Edinburgh Council has also expressed a desire to introduce similar facilities and discussions are ongoing between Scottish Government and council officials.

“In 2023-24, we made a record £112m available to local Alcohol and Drug Partnerships and funding for drug policy has increased by 67% since 2014 to help us tackle this serious issue.

“We’re working hard to respond to the growing threat from super-strong synthetic opioids like nitazenes in an increasingly toxic and unpredictable drug supply. Such synthetics, which increase the risk of overdose, hospitalisation and death, are being found in a range of substances. Because of their strength I would urge people to carry extra life-saving naloxone kits.”