I note that with the drugs conferences in Glasgow this week various media organisations are again reporting on the drug death statistics in Scotland. These are indeed very concerning; they do seem to have an explanation (but I’m no expert); and it is the subject of action by the SG, its agencies, third sector bodies etc.

[ For action already underway see:]

Although the figures for Scotland on drugs deaths are appalling and worse that those in England (although calculated a bit differently,) it is notable that even within England alone the actual figures are strikingly different across the regions.

[On calculation see:]

Below are some facts from the latest data published by the Office for National Statistics (ONS).


The ONS reports that in 2018 in North East England there were 96.2 deaths per million persons due to drug misuse – the highest in England. The lowest figure was 34.9 deaths per million persons in London – that’s a very big difference. There is a general pattern of the rate of deaths increasing the further one moves away from London and the South East (see ONS Figure 4: Drug misuse has a marked North-South divide).

Why is there such variability within one country, one system, and all under the management of a Tory government for the past 10 years? If current UK drug policy is sufficient and the Westminster government is actively using all the (adequate) powers at its disposal – as it may claim – why is this variability across England still in existence?

But the ONS also states: “The number of deaths registered arising from drug use in 2018 (in England and Wales) was the highest since our records began in 1993. We have also seen the biggest year-on-year percentage increase”.

So whatever is said in the media about the situation in Scotland – and it is right that the situation is seriously addressed – let’s try not to permit the coverage to airbrush out the very marked, unexplained regional variations in England.