Legal high deaths doubled in past year

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New figures have shown that the number of deaths from legal high doubled during the past year.

During the last year there were 113 deaths from New Psychoactive Substances (NPS), compared to 47 during 2012.

NPS were present in 60 deaths, compared to 32 during 2012, however other substances were also present in 55 of these 60 deaths.

According to statistics from the National Records of Scotland, the number of deaths in Scotland, related to drugs, decreased by 9% to 526 during last year.

Among those aged under 25, there were 32 drug deaths. This is the lowest number since 1996. Those in the 35 and over age group accounted for 68% of deaths.

Around 75% of the fatalities during 2013 were males.

Roseanna Cunningham, the community safety minister, said the 9% decline in deaths is good and hopes that the previous years’ increases have now ended and the number will start to level off. She said that each of these figures indicates a grieving family and 526 lives have been lost. She offered her sincere sympathies for the lives that have been lost.

She said that the statistics are a product of the long legacy of drug abuse among older users. The Scottish Drugs Forum is being funded to work with older users and about 4000 naloxone kits were issued through the prevention program during 2012/13, to those at risk of overdose. This has potentially saved in excess of 350 lives.

The figures indicate that about nine out of 10 deaths were due to taking more than one drug and possibly involved alcohol as well. Only 9% had a single drug, and possibly alcohol, in their bodies upon death.

The chair of the National Forum on Drug Related Deaths, Roy Robertson, said these figures are an all too familiar indication of a complex problem. He said the reduction has been welcomed and hopefully is indicative of an improving situation. However, the multiple drug ingestion pattern which leads to fatalities has continued from prior years.

The chief executive of the drugs information charity Crew 2000, Carole Kelly, issued warnings about the dangers linked to NPS. She said that it is cheaper than known illegal drugs and they are aware that different age and social groups are using it.

She added that those who have not used drugs before are at risk due to a lack of experience and information which inhibits their choices and those who have used other drugs previously may not be aware of the added risks and consequences of its use.

Image Credit: Lisa Roe

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