THE news that the number of drug-related deaths in Scotland fell by nine per cent last year gives grounds for cautious optimism, but it is by no means cause for celebration.

Every one of these fatalities is a tragedy, and every one is preventable.

Just 32 of the 525 deaths were of people under 25, which may give hope that the anti-drugs message is hitting home with our youth. And only five deaths involved only "legal highs", implying this problem may have been over-hyped, though it is still cause for concern. For the first time, the average age of victims has topped 40. Where not so long ago the story behind the headlines was of parents mourning their children, now it is increasingly a case of youngsters grieving over the death of their grandparents.

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Community Safety Minister Roseanna Cunningham is right when she says these statistics are the product of a long legacy of drug misuse among older users. She is also correct to point out the value of nalaxone, which has proved effective as a treatment for heroin overdoses. This programme must continue to be given a high priority.

Some sighs of relief may be excused, but is too early to cheer.