Drug-related deaths in the Lothians have risen by 28 per cent in one year, the highest figure ever recorded according to figures published by the National Records of Scotland.
A total of 128 people died in the region – 15 per cent of total Scottish drug deaths in 2016 and second only to Greater Glasgow and Clyde which accounted for 30 per cent of fatalities.
The latest statistics show an increase from 100 deaths in 2015 to 128 in 2016 across the Lothians.
Accidental poisoning accounted for 88 deaths in 2016 with any opiate or opioid including heroin responsible for 112 fatalities.
The so-called “Trainspotting Generation” – those in the over-35 age group – bore the brunt of the fatalities, with the average age at time of death continuing to be 41 years old.
Professor Alison McCallum, Director of Public Health, NHS Lothian, described the increase in deaths as “worrying”.
She said: “Every drug-related death is a tragic loss. The figures released by National Records of Scotland have shown a continuing and worrying increase in drug-related deaths.
“We are committed to working with all of our partner agencies to reduce deaths and harm due to substance misuse throughout Lothian, and to improving the lives and wellbeing of those who use drugs and their families.”
She added: “The risk of drug-related death can be minimised by enabling greater access to specialist treatment and long-term support. One of our key immediate interventions is to ensure that those at risk and those close to people who use drugs have access to naloxone – a drug that can reverse the effects of an overdose from heroin and other opiates.”
The total number of drug deaths in Scotland has risen by 23 per cent between 2015 and 2016 – from 706 to 867.
The number of people dying from a drug-related death in the under 24 age bracket accounted for five per cent (42) of the total number.
Aileen Campbell, Minister for Public Health said: “I would like to offer my sympathies to anyone affected by the loss of someone who has died as a result of drug use. Each number represents an untimely death and is a tragedy. We are continuing to do all we can to prevent others from experiencing this heartbreak.
“We are dealing with a very complex problem in Scotland – a legacy of drugs misuse stretching back decades.
“What we are seeing is an ageing group of people who are long-term drugs users. They have a pattern of addiction which is very difficult to break, and they have developed other chronic medical conditions.”