National Records of Scotland

Preserving the past, Recording the present, Informing the future

Occasional Paper

Occasional Paper

Summary of results for 1999 (Annex B)

Recent trends

(Table 1)

6. The broad total of drug-related deaths, as defined above, increased by 23 per cent from 276 in 1998 to 340 in 1999. Within this total the number of deaths of known or suspected drug addicts rose from 179 to 227, and the number of deaths of persons not known or suspected to be drug addicts rose from 97 to 113. Because of the relatively small numbers involved, and the possibility that more complete information is being reported, care should be taken when assessing the trends shown in this table. However, it is believed that the marked increase in the total for 1999 represents a significant real change.

Health board areas 

(Table 2)

7. Of the 340 deaths covered by this analysis, 112 occurred in Greater Glasgow Health Board area. Grampian, with 42, and Lothian, with 38, had the next highest totals. In Greater Glasgow the number of deaths of those known or suspected to be drug-dependent rose from 71 in 1998 to 90 in 1999; Grampian, up from 14 to 26, also showed a sizeable increase. For other health board areas, the changes were less marked.

Age groups 

(Table 3)

8. As in previous years the majority of deaths were to persons aged under 45, with almost two-thirds (65%) aged between 25 and 44 and over a quarter (27%) aged under 25. Of the 27 cases aged 45 and over, only 6 were known or suspected to be drug-dependent.

Types of drug 

(Table 4)

9. Table 4 gives a breakdown by health board area of selected drugs involved in the deaths either alone or, more commonly, in combination with other drugs. Since the table records individual mentions of particular drugs it involves double counting of some deaths. The drugs listed in the table were mentioned in 237 of the 340 deaths. It is believed that for the overwhelming majority of cases where morphine has been identified in post-mortem toxicological tests its presence is a result of heroin use. We therefore show a combined figure for 'heroin/morphine'. The table shows that heroin/morphine was involved in 163 (48%) of the deaths analysed in this report. Diazepam was involved in 135 (40%) of the deaths and methadone was involved in 62 (18%). A wide range of drug combinations was recorded. Of particular note was the fact that diazepam was also mentioned in over half (84) of the 163 deaths involving heroin/morphine.

10. The table shows a marked geographical difference in the reported involvement of certain drugs in the deaths concerned. Methadone was involved in half of the 38 deaths in Lothian but in only one-sixth of the 112 deaths in Greater Glasgow. Conversely, heroin/morphine was mentioned in 69 of the 112 deaths in Greater Glasgow but in only 7 of the 38 deaths in Lothian. Of the benzodiazepines, diazepam was involved in many deaths throughout Scotland but temazepam was involved mainly in Greater Glasgow.

11. The presence of alcohol was mentioned for 96 of the 340 deaths covered by this analysis. The blood-alcohol level was not given for all cases but, where mentioned, it was often at a relatively low level.


1. Arrundale J and Cole S K.Collection of information on drug-related deaths by the National Records of Scotland. NRS, 1995.

2. Christophersen O, Rooney C and Kelly S. Drug-related mortality: methods and trends. Population Trends 93, ONS, 1998

3. The Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs. Reducing drug related deaths. Home Office, 2000.

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