In international terms, Scotland has a disproportionately serious problem with drug misuse. It is a significant driver of economic underperformance, crime and victimisation, risk to children and health inequalities, including drug-related deaths.
People with drug use problems are often the most vulnerable and marginalised in society and experience stigma and social isolation. The Scottish Government wants more people to have the opportunity to recover from their problem drug use and therefore, it is important to maintain an oversight of the estimated size of this population of people with multiple and complex needs.
Recent evidence suggests that drug use among the general adult population and young people is falling, and confirms the presence of an ageing population of people with drug problems. Children and families affected by drug use problems can experience a range of difficulties and for this reason, improving outcomes for these children and families is a top priority for Government.
Problem drug use is also strongly linked to crime and the total economic and social costs of problem drug use in Scotland are estimated at around £3.5bn a year. Clearly, reducing the number of people with drug use problems through long-term, sustained and individual focused recovery is a key priority for the Government.
There are strong and clear links between: poverty; deprivation; mental health and wellbeing; health inequalities; repeat offending; victimisation; and drug addiction. Not everyone who lives in a disadvantaged neighbourhood will develop a problem. However, people are more at risk where there are: low employment opportunities; few community amenities; poor personal resources; and weak family and social bonds. Addressing wider inequalities such as housing, income, education and health can play an important role in reducing drug misuse. Tackling drug misuse effectively will, in itself, have a significant impact on inequalities in Scotland.
The Scottish Government published, in May 2008, "The Road to Recovery" - the first national drugs strategy for a decade. This sets out a new strategic direction for tackling problem drug use, based on treatment services promoting recovery. The strategy also sets out how the Scottish Government and its partners have a key role in tackling problem drug use through: taking a broad approach to prevention (promoting economic growth, delivering early interventions, and supporting families); measures to reduce supply through law enforcement; and intelligence-led activities to disrupt organised crime. It also proposes a range of measures to better ensure that children affected by parental substance misuse are safe. We want to build safer and stronger communities, more attractive to work and live in. Key to all of this is the effective delivery of the drug strategy at a national and local level. The Scottish Government has sustained record investment in drug treatment and support services, investing £30.2m in 2012-13; this represents an increase of over 20% since 2006. To achieve core outcomes for Alcohol and Drug Partnerships (ADPs), the Scottish Government provides funding to ADPs, via NHS Boards, for drug services and support.
Estimates of the number of people with problem drug use draw on a wide range of data sources and, because they are estimating a largely hidden and unknown population, they are difficult to establish accurately.
Estimates of the number of people, aged 15 to 64 years old, with problem drug use in Scotland in 2012/13 (Revised) was 61,500 compared with an estimate of 59,600 in 2009/10. However this does not represent a statistically significant change. Since the baseline in 2006 there has been an increase from 55,300.
The data is available at the bottom of the page.
The prevalence rate of problem drug use in Scotland in 2012/13 amongst individuals aged between 15 and 64 years was estimated to be 1.68% or 59,500 people. This figure was estimated to be 1.71% or 59,600 people in 2009/10.
It is estimated that over two thirds (71%) of the people with problem drug use in mainland Scotland in 2012/13 were male, and that the prevalence rate of problem drug use for males was 2.43% of the population, compared to 0.96% of the female population.
The estimated prevalence rate of problem drug use for males by age in 2012/13 was 1.9% amongst the 15-24 year age group, 4.3% for 25 to 34 year olds and 2% for 35 to 64 year olds.
Between the 2009/10 and 2012/13 estimates, the estimated prevalence rate of problem drug use amongst males in the 15-24 and 25-34 year age groups has fallen, whilst there has been an increase in the prevalence rate of problem drug use in the 35-64 age group.
The data is available at the bottom of the page.
This evaluation is based on: any difference within +/- 2% per annum suggests that the position is more likely to be maintaining than showing any change. A decrease of 2% per annum or more suggests the position is improving; whereas an increase of 2% or more per annum suggests the position is worsening. The threshold of 2% per annum chosen is based on an assessment of the data available at this time, and may need to be reviewed as more information becomes available in the future.
For information on general methodological approach, please click here.
Scotland Performs Technical Note
Alcohol and Drug Partnerships
NHS Health Scotland
Scottish Crime and Drugs Enforcement Agency
Scottish Families affected by Drugs
Scottish Police forces
Scottish Recovery Consortium
Scottish training on Drugs and Alcohol
Wealthier and Fairer
Safer and Stronger