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Parliamentary debates and questions

S5W-10654: Miles Briggs (Lothian)

Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party

Date lodged: 9 August 2017

To ask the Scottish Government how many people have died after overdosing on opioids in each year since 1999.

Answered by: Shona Robison 1 September 2017

The information that is available is given in the following table. This was produced from a National Records of Scotland (NRS) database which covers all the drug poisoning deaths that are counted by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) “wide” definition. Figures for 1999 are not available because 2000 is the first year for which that database holds information.

The following are among the opioids (including opiates), or compounds containing opioids, most often reported as being involved in deaths registered in Scotland from 2000: buprenorphine, co-codamol, co-proxamol, codeine, dextropropoxyphene, diamorphine, dihydrocodeine, heroin, methadone, morphine, oxycodone, propoxyphene and tramadol.

The table distinguishes between deaths for which only opioids were reported (e.g. deaths for which the cause was given as “heroin toxicity” or “heroin, methadone and dihydrocodeine intoxication”), and deaths for which both opioids and one or more other types of drug were reported (e.g. deaths for which the cause was given as “adverse effects of heroin, pregabalin, tramadol, diazepam and etizolam” or “etizolam, gabapentin, amitriptyline and codeine intoxication”).

For each year, the table shows more deaths than the “Any opiate or opioid” column in Table 3 of “Drug-related Deaths in Scotland in 2016” (which was published by NRS on 15 August 2017). This is because some of the ONS “wide” definition deaths for which opioids were reported are not counted as “drug-related” for the purpose of NRS’s statistics: for example, deaths due solely to co-codamol, co-proxamol, dextropropoxyphene, or tramadol before it was controlled under the Misuse of Drugs Act. More on this is available in “Drug-related Deaths in Scotland in 2016” (e.g. paragraphs A3 of Annex A and F5 of Annex F).

Drug poisoning deaths (ONS “wide” definition) registered in Scotland for which one or more opioids (including opiates) were reported*, 2000 to 2016

Year in which death was registered

All deaths for which opioids were reported

of which:

No other type of drug was reported

One or more other types of drug were reported

2000

343

94

249

2001

380

103

277

2002

412

93

319

2003

343

86

257

2004

385

143

242

2005

337

137

200

2006

403

191

212

2007

451

173

278

break in series*

2008

550

230

320

2009

540

229

311

2010

480

219

261

2011

558

245

313

2012

531

215

316

2013

499

189

310

2014

553

226

327

2015

619

224

395

2016

776

171

605

* the basis of these figures and why there is a break in the series are explained in the paragraph which follows.

There is a break in the series between 2007 and 2008. This is due to the revision of the form on which pathologists provide NRS with more complete information about the substances that were present in a body:

  • up to 2007, the form asked for the “principal drug or solvent found in a fatal dose” and “any other drugs or solvents involved in this death”, and the figures are based on all the substances which the pathologists reported;

  • from 2008, the form asks for the drugs or solvents (a) “…implicated in, or which potentially contributed to, the cause of death” and (b) “… any other[s] which were present, but which were not considered to have had any direct contribution to this death”, and the figures cover only substances which the pathologists reported under (a), which is the standard basis for NRS’s figures for drugs reported for 2008 onwards.

More information about these matters is available in “Drug-related Deaths in Scotland in 2016” (e.g. paragraphs 2.3 to 2.5).