Scotland reported 722 suspected drug deaths in the first half of 2021. Photo: iStock

Scotland reported 722 suspected drug deaths in the first half of 2021, showing a small decrease of one per cent over the same period last year.

The latest figures for drug overdoses come just two months after those for 2020 showed a record 1,339 deaths.

The data showed 69 per cent of suspected drug deaths were of people aged between 35 and 54.

The statistics released on Tuesday (September 14) will follow publishing of subsequent quarterly reports.

The new report is an attempt to give regular updates on drug death after criticism that figures lagged too far behind.

Scotland continues to have by far the highest drug death rate recorded by any country in Europe.

Drugs Policy minister Angela Constance said: “Once again these figures are appalling. We are taking a vast range of actions to tackle this public health emergency, and we recognise the hard work and challenges ahead.

“More regular reporting of data on drug death trends in Scotland will ensure everyone involved in our national mission remains focussed on the work we must do to get more people into the treatment that is best suited for them as quickly as possible.”

After the appointment of Constance in December 2020 to the newly created post of Drugs Policy minister, a national mission on the crisis was announced in January.

Since then the Scottish government has announced to spend £250 million to address the crisis over the next five years.

She said: “The £250 million we are investing in tackling this public health emergency will make a difference. I am working to ensure it reaches front-line services as quickly as possible and that every single penny will count as we continue to prioritise our efforts to turn this crisis around.”

The Scottish government is also working to reduce stigma and increase awareness about drug overdose, and recently launched the Naloxone Awareness Campaign with the Scottish Drugs Forum.

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