Though on the lookout for drug death figures, the media silence on good news in this area led me to miss a report on 14 March.
The key points are:
During 2022, there were 1,092 suspected drug deaths, 16% (203) fewer than during the same period of 2021 (1,295); a majority (66%) of suspected drug deaths were of people aged between 35 and 54. This is broadly in line with previous periods; there were 55 suspected drug deaths in the under 25 age group, 19% (13) fewer than between January and December 2021.https://www.gov.scot/publications/suspected-drug-deaths-scotland-october-december-2022/pages/3/
From the data tables, I can calculate the total annual deaths were:
So, suspected drug deaths recorded by Police Scotland have fallen by 22.6% in the last two years.
3 thoughts on “Suspected drug deaths fall again and by nearly a quarter in only two years”
“For quarter 4, October to December 2022:
There were 295 suspected drug deaths recorded, 26% (60) more than between July to September 2022 (235), and 2% (7) more than the same calendar quarter in the previous year (October to December 2021, 288).
This is the highest recorded number of suspected drug deaths recorded in a single calendar quarter since April to June 2021.”
Here is the media story.
The plea that the PHS report goes on to make:
“Note that numbers of suspected drug deaths fluctuate from quarter to quarter. Care should be taken not to interpret movements between individual calendar quarters as indicative of any long term trend.”
will, of course be ignored by the media as will the wider context provided by the PHS report.
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This is the headline of statement from the Royal College of Psychiatrists (RCPsych) in Scotland issued 14 March: ‘Scotland’s quarterly suspected drug deaths figures highest since June 2021’.
What follows is a mix of messages (with my emphasis):
1) ‘There were 1,092 suspected drug deaths in the whole of 2022 – 203, or 16%, FEWER THAN THE WHOLE OF 2021, according to official data.’
2) ‘BUT 295 of these suspected deaths occurred in the final quarter of the year – from October to December 2022.’
So which trend line is the organisation focusing on?
3) ‘This was 60 more – or 26% – than the previous quarter and 2% MORE THAN THE SAME CALENDAR QUARTER IN 2021, when there were 288 suspected deaths.’
Looks like the focus is on the latest, single quarter! The statement adds:
4) ‘Chair of the Addictions Faculty at the Royal College of Psychiatrists in Scotland, said: “These statistics are heartbreaking as well as deeply worrying. While the announcement of the £68m cross-government action plan was most welcome, the Scottish Government must do better. They MUST MAKE SURE services, workforce and funding is sustained over time.”
Questions: is there not an overall improvement in the statistics? Is the additional investment not part of an intention to ‘do better’? Does the spokesperson presently have any evidence to indicate that the government will NOT sustain these efforts over time?
5) The Chair is then quoted saying: “Drug deaths are driven by poverty, past trauma, domestic abuse and generational substance misuse. These social factors will TAKE YEARS TO ADDRESS.”
So a quick solution without statistical bumps in the road is what – unrealistic?
On 19 August 2019, the RCPsych issued a statement under this heading: ‘Record number of drug-related deaths a ‘wake-up call’ to Government, says RCPsych’.
Its statement included this: ‘Responding to new statistics showing a record number of drug-related deaths in England and Wales, … the vice-chair of our Addictions Faculty, said: “The highest-ever recorded number of people dying through drug-related deaths in England and Wales SHOULD SERVE AS A WAKE-UP CALL TO THE GOVERNMENT THAT THEIR APPROACH TO ADDICTION SERVICES IS PUTTING PEOPLE’S LIVES AT RISK.
“The 28% CUT IN SPENDING IN TODAY’S PRICES ON ADULT DRUG MISUSE SERVICES IN ENGLAND SINCE 2013/14 HAS STARVED SERVICES of the money needed to treat people living with this potentially life-ending illness. (my emphasis)
Adding: “National decision makers need to wake up to the fact that swingeing cuts to services, disconnecting NHS mental health services from addiction services and SHIFTING THE FOCUS AWAY FROM HARM REDUCTION TO ABSTINENCE-BASED RECOVERY IS DESTROYING LIVES AND fuelling the increase in drug-related deaths.”
Notably, elsewhere on its website the RCPsych comments on the use of drug consumption rooms (again with my emphasis):
‘Drug consumption rooms aim to reduce the harm associated with drug use by allowing people to use heroin or other drugs in a monitored space. THEY HAVE BEEN ESTABLISHED IN OTHER COUNTRIES AND HAVE BEEN SHOWN TO BE EFFECTIVE IN REDUCING HARM RELATED TO DRUG USE. HOWEVER, THEY ARE NOT LEGALLY AVAILABLE IN THE UK.
‘Studies from other countries have shown that DRUG CONSUMPTION ROOMS ARE USED BY HIGH-RISK DRUG USERS, AND CAN POTENTIALLY REDUCE HARM. This includes reducing the risk of death from accidental overdose. WHEN SOMEONE VISITS A DRUG CONSUMPTION ROOM THEY WILL BE ENCOURAGED TO GET TREATMENT FOR DRUG DEPENDENCE AND TO ACCESS OTHER HEALTH AND SOCIAL SERVICES.’
Perhaps the latest statement by the RCPsych in Scotland – which has been picked by for example the Daily Record – might also have reflected the Royal College’s view of the value of drug consumption rooms!
Thanks for this.
Despite its high fault in title the Royal College is a trade union and is pursuing gain for its members, hence the highlighting of the datum for the final quarter and linking this with a demand for greater funding.
However, within such professional organisations there are many, probably most, practitioners who look at things from a professional perspective and so we read the kinds of things you have quoted from other parts of their website which examine various hypotheses.
The Daily Ranger, under its Labour candidate political editor could not give a Monkey’s about informed and measured hypothesising. It wants somebody to BLAME! The Ranger also does not give a monkey’s about drug addicts.
It is worthy of note that the Ranger is owned by the same company that owns the Express.