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Record numbers hospitalised after overdosing on heroin and methadone

A record number of people were admitted to hospital last year after overdosing on opioids, it has been revealed.

More than 2500 people were hospitalised in 2016, the highest number since 1999 when these particular records began.

It means nearly 50 people a week are rushed to hospital after taking opioid drugs, which are defined as heroin, methadone or opium.

The statistics emerged following a Parliamentary Question by shadow health secretary Miles Briggs.

They follow on from figures last month revealing record drug deaths for opioids, with 776 people losing their life in 2016.

Of the 2507 last year who were admitted after an overdose, 24 died in hospital as a result.

The Scottish Conservatives said these are the latest statistics which show the need for a new drugs strategy north of the border.

The party have repeatedly urged the Scottish Government to get tougher on dealers and suppliers who ruin lives and communities, and find alternatives to methadone for those addicts who want to give up drugs completely.

Scottish Conservative shadow health secretary Miles Briggs said:

“This is the latest set of figures which show the severity of Scotland’s drug problem, which is now the worst in Europe.

“The sheer scale of heroin and methadone use is ruining lives left, right and centre.

“We already knew Scotland was experiencing a drugs deaths rate higher than anywhere else.

“Now we can see the extent of those overdosing on dangerous substances too.

“We need a new strategy urgently to help these vulnerable people beat this lethal habit for good.

“The only crumb of comfort from these statistics is how relatively few deaths occur directly from these overdoses, and we have to thank our hardworking NHS staff for that.”


Notes to editors:

Last month, the scale of Scotland's drug deaths problem was revealed:

Below is a copy of the answer to the Parliamentary Question by shadow health secretary Miles Briggs:

1 September 2017

Index Heading: Health and Social Care

Miles Briggs (Lothian) (Scottish Conservatives and Unionist Party): To ask the Scottish Government how many people have been admitted to hospital after overdosing on opioids in each year since 1999.

Shona Robison:
Information on admissions to hospital after overdosing on opioids is provided in the following table.
Table 1: Number of people1 admitted to acute hospitals in Scotland2 after overdosing on opioids3, and the number who subsequently died4; calendar years5 1999 – 2016.

Calendar year5 Number of people1,2 Number
discharged dead4
1999 1,476 9
2000 1,943 17
2001 2,275 14
2002 2,369 9
2003 2,119 12
2004 2,084 19
2005 1,900 14
2006 1,995 14
2007 2,201 14
2008 2,365 16
2009 2,321 19
2010 2,270 14
2011 2,362 12
2012 2,363 13
2013 2,389 15
2014 2,326 28
2015 2,374 27
2016 2,507 24

Source: ISD Scotland Scottish Morbidity Record 01 (SMR01)
Ref: IR2017-01333.

  1. Patients are counted once each year, regardless of the number of admissions to hospital they may have had in that year.
  2. Includes patients admitted to acute hospitals in Scotland, irrespective of admission type and patient’s country of residence. Does not include admissions to psychiatric hospitals.
  3. Up to six diagnoses can be recorded within each hospital episode record. This analysis is based on records with opioid overdose diagnoses in any position and within any episode within the patient’s stay. Diagnoses are coded using the World Health Organization's International Classification of Diseases 10th Revision (ICD10). The following ICD10 codes were used to identify opioid overdose, defined as poisoning by:

T40.0 – Opium
T40.1 – Heroin
T40.2 – Other opioids
T40.3 – Methadone.

Multiple substances may be involved in a drug-related overdose, therefore hospital records can include more than one drug poisoning code.

The ICD-10 code selection listed above does not specify if the overdoses were due to illicit drug or prescribed drug use.

All types of underlying causes for overdose are taken into account, including accidental poisoning, intentional self-poisoning, assault by drugs and undetermined intent.

  1. People with hospital discharge type ‘death’.
  2. Calendar years are assigned based on patient’s date of admission to hospital.


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