Paraphrasing the Daily Express header ‘Drug death figures ‘a badge of shame’ for Nicola Sturgeon as second highest total recorded‘, last month, I draw attention to an emerging scandal and dramatic shift in the relative drug deaths in Scotland and in England & Wales.
Drug deaths among both the 15-24 and 25-34 age groups are climbing in England & Wales to a record high in 2021 (see tables below). Media attention has been light and no blame has been directed toward Kit Maltouse, a regular critic of the Scottish Government, above.
In sharp contrast drug deaths among both the 15-24 and 25-34 age groups are falling in Scotland, after peaking in 2008. Since then, under SNP governments, they have been stable before falling to only 11 and 28 cases respectively, 39 in total, in 2021.
Because the Office for National Statistics and the National Records of Scotland used different groupings for their published annual data, comparative trends in Scotland and in England & Wales, figures have not been clear and have been missed.
Scotland has 15-24, 25-34 and 35-44 age groups while England and Wales has Under 20, 20-29 and 30-39, so comparisons could not be precise.
However, researchers at the ONS have kindly provided me with re-sorted data for the 15-24 and 25-34 groups in England & Wales:
England & Wales have 11 times the population and so, all things being equal, should have 11 times the 39 drug deaths for 15 -34 year-olds in Scotland, or 429.
However, for the same age groups, they had 1 005 or 661 depending on whether you count all drug deaths or only those from ‘abuse.’ Scotland does not have this breakdown but either way the death rate is far higher in England & Wales, by between 54% and more than twice as high.
Scotland does still have higher drug death rates among older users (>35) who became addicts under Thatcher, were ignored by the Blair government and who are now dying together at the end of shortened lives, regardless of the help offered by Scotland’s target busting treatment programmes.
Surely what is more important is that Scotland is tending clearly toward lower drug deaths and and away from its tragic past. That’s news too.