Sharp rise in Scottish drug-related hospital admissions

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The rate of drug-related hospital stays in Scotland has increased from 41 per 100,000 population to 124 per 100,000 since 1996/97, according to new figures issued by ISD Scotland. In 2013/14, almost 70 per cent of drug-related stays were associated with opioids and more than 90 per cent were emergency admissions.

The rate of hospital stays increased among older age groups – from 20 to 213 per 100,000 for those aged 40-44 – while decreasing among younger people. Scottish Drug Forum director David Liddell recently stressed the importance of engaging with the country’s cohort of older, entrenched drug users (DDN, October, page 8).

‘The steadily increasing rate of hospital stays related to drug misuse shows that we are fighting a losing battle,’ said Scottish Liberal Democrat health spokesperson Jim Hume MSP. ‘It is worrying that those from Scotland’s poorest communities continue to suffer most from the blight of illegal drug misuse,’ he added, stressing that the figures highlighted the need for a ‘radical’ change in approach to drug policy.

Figures showing a two-thirds increase in the number of take-home naloxone kits issued were welcomed by the Scottish government, however. ‘Our world-leading programme for take-home naloxone, alongside life-saving training, sends a clear message that lives matter, and will help those who may not have engaged with drugs services before,’ said community safety minister Roseanna Cunningham. ‘While problem drug use among the general adult population and young people has decreased, there is still an older group of people who now also face a range of other health problems placing them at increased risk of overdose and death. We are determined to tackle this and support these vulnerable people. The naloxone programme is a key part of this.’

Drug-related hospital statistics Scotland 2014 and National naloxone programme Scotland – naloxone kits issued in 2013/14 and trends in opioid-related deaths at www.isdscotland.org