Time to look beyond ageing as a factor? Alternative explanations for the continuing rise in drug related deaths in Scotland
Article publication date: 17 December 2018
Issue publication date: 5 April 2019
The purpose of this paper is to examine the reasons and risk factors that explain the threefold increase in drug-related deaths from 267 in 1996 to 934 in 2017 in Scotland. The authors explore the known links between deprivation and problem drug use (PDU) and discuss the impact of drug policy and service provision on PDU and drug-related deaths.
Using quantitative data sets from the National Records of Scotland (NRS) for drug-related deaths registered in 2017 and data sets from the Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation (SIMD), we produce statistical data on mortality rates relating to areas of deprivation, gender and age.
The data highlight the disproportionate number of deaths in the most deprived areas in comparison to the least deprived areas and the national average. Findings indicate that one quarter of male and female DRD in 2017 were under 35. When examining the least deprived vingtile, drug-related deaths account for 2.84 per 100,000 population. Based on this mortality rate calculation, the amount of drug-related deaths are 23 times higher in the most deprived area than the least deprived area.
The research design uses data obtained from the NRS and data from Scottish Multiple Index of Deprivation. Due to the limitations of available data, the research design focused on SIMD population vingtiles.
This research contributes to making unarguable links between entrenched structural inequality and increased drug-related death.
This paper contributes to knowledge on the need for drug policy advisors to recognise the importance of deprivation that plays a major part in risks of problematic drug use and harms.
While several national data sets have published information by SIMD vingtile, no published research has sought to investigate the disproportionate number of deaths by population in the most deprived areas.
McPhee, I., Sheridan, B. and O’Rawe, S. (2019), "Time to look beyond ageing as a factor? Alternative explanations for the continuing rise in drug related deaths in Scotland", Drugs and Alcohol Today, Vol. 19 No. 2, pp. 72-85. https://doi.org/10.1108/DAT-06-2018-0030
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