Falkirk’s figures show a slight variation from the national trend which saw deaths due to drug misuse hit an all-time high in 2020, with 1339 deaths.
The latest figures released today (Thursday) show 1330 deaths in Scotland in 2021 – a reduction of nine. Although this is the first years since 2013 where drug misuse deaths have not increased in Scotland, it is still the second highest annual total on record.
Falkirk saw its worst year in 2018 when the council area recorded 43 deaths due to drug misuse. While that figure has since reduced slightly, the figures had massively increased in recent years and are now more than three times the number recorded a decade ago.
Of the 38 deaths in Falkirk last year, 31 were men and seven women.
Julie Ramsay, vital events statistician at NRS, said: “Drug misuse deaths have increased substantially over the past few decades – there were more than five times as many deaths in 2021 compared with 1996. 2021 is the first year since 2013 that drug misuse deaths have not increased.
“In 2021, after adjusting for age, people in the most deprived areas were more than 15 times as likely to have a drug misuse death as those in the least deprived areas. This ratio has widened over the past two decades.”
In 93 per cent of all drug misuse deaths, more than one drug was found to be present in the body, and the type of drugs that are implicated in deaths has been changing.
The national figures show that in 2015 there were 191 deaths involving benzodiazepines – last year there were 918, nearly five times as many. This increase has mostly been driven by street benzodiazepines rather than prescription drugs
This figures for Falkirk district paint the same picture. Of all 38 drug misuse deaths in 2021, 34 of them involved opiates or opioids (such as heroin, morphine and methadone), while 33 involved benzodiazepines (such as diazepam and etizolam).
In 2020 (the most recent year available for the rest of the UK) Scotland’s drug misuse rate was 3.7 times that for the UK as a whole, and higher than that of any European country.
Phillip Heaton, lead officer for Falkirk Alcohol and Drug Partnership, said: “Knowing that every drug death is preventable, we understand the heartbreak felt within our communities by these stark statistics. While the rate of drug deaths remains high we must continue to focus on providing support to all who remain at risk.
“We continue work with colleagues across Forth Valley to enhance drug and alcohol services, increasing and simplifying access to one-stop treatment, as well as committing to fully implement the Scottish Government’s treatment standards for medication-assisted treatment
“We are hopeful that new ways of working and providing support, including expanding Recovery Communities to provide peer-to-peer support, and introducing a new overdose response service will prove fruitful over the medium to long term. Immediately, we know that the distribution of Naloxone, an overdose reversal medication, is working well in Forth Valley – allowing anyone who has received training to save a life.
“We would urge anyone concerned about drug or alcohol issues to contact 0808 196 2188 or visit the website (adp.nhsforthvalley.com) for information and advice.”