Over 1,260 people in Scotland died of drug misuse last year, the highest number since records began – and a new record for six years in a row.
The figures are the worst per head in Europe, dwarfing second-place Sweden and three-and-a-half times the rate of England and Wales, prompting the Scottish Government’s public health minister to resign.
Around two-thirds of those who died were aged 35 to 54.
The 1,264 deaths are more than double the number in 2014 and 6 per cent higher than in 2018.
404 deaths occurred in Greater Glasgow and Clyde. Lanarkshire and Lothian each recorded over 150 deaths.
Benzodiazepines were involved in 814 deaths, almost two-thirds of the total figure.
Donald Cameron, Scottish Conservative spokesman for health, said the statistics were “appalling”.
He added: “We need to start helping people to get off drugs and get well, we can’t simply try to manage addictions and leave it there.”
David Liddell, CEO of Scottish Drugs Forum, said: “None of us should regard these preventable deaths as acceptable or as anything other than a national tragedy and disgrace.”
The 2019 statistics had been delayed due to a backlog in processing toxicology reports arising from the COVID-19 outbreak.
Public health minister Joe FitzPatrick resigned over the record figures.
He said he had “agreed” to quit after discussions with First Minister Nicola Sturgeon.
Earlier this year, Public Health Scotland revealed that drug-related hospital stays increased by over 350 per cent in the past two decades, from just over 4,000 in 1996-97 to approximately 14,000 in 2018-2019.