SCOTLAND’S drugs death explosion is so severe it has led to a stalling of the entire country's life expectancy figures.

The National Records of Scotland (NRS) said the rise in drug deaths alone cut average life expectancy by over two weeks in 2018, more than offsetting improvements in heart disease.

The surge in deaths among the so-called Trainspotting generation of 35 to 54 year olds stopped what had been a long-term improvement in life expectancy.

Scotland had one of the worst drug-death rates in the world last year, with 1,187 fatalities, an increase of 27 per cent on 2017.

Opposition parties called the problem "shocking" and "shameful".

READ MORE: Drug death rate in Scotland at record high

The NRS also revealed new data on people’s healthy life expectancy, showing women in the most deprived neighbourhoods consider they spend a third of their lives in ill-health.

Scotland’s population by mid-2018 was 5.44m, another record after 18 consecutive rises.

However the rate of increase slowed from 0.59% in mid-2016 to 0.25% in mid-2018.

The growing population was driven entirely by net inward migration of 20,900, as deaths exceeded births by 7700, the largest natural decrease on record.

There were 51,308 births last year, the lowest number since 2002 and the second lowest since records began in 1855.

The average age for a first time parent was 30.6 for a mother and 33.1 for a father, compared to 26 and 28.4 years respectively in 1975.

Scotland also has the lowest fertility rate of the four UK nations, at 1.42 children per female, compared to the 2.1 needed for a population to replace itself.

The number of stillbirths, at 190 or 3.7 for every 1000 births, was the lowest on record. 

The number of deaths rose 1.1% to 58,503 in 2018. Cancers of all kinds were the leading cause of death, followed by heart disease, dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. 

The life expectancy figures showed the long-term upward trend has stopped, with a slight fall in life expectancy for both men and women 

Life expectancy at birth is now 81.1 years on average for women and 77 years for men, the lowest in the UK. However deprivation has a marked effect.

While life expectancy for women living in the most affluent 10% of neighbourhoods is 85.3 years, it is just 75.7 in the poorest 10% of Scotland, or 9.6 years less.

Male life expectancy in the richest parts of Scotland is 82.7 years, but 69.7 in the poorest, a gap of 13 years.

Moreover, while lifespans are shorter in poor areas, more years are spent in ill-health.

According to self-assessment surveys, women in the poorest 10% of Scotland feel they spend 34.5% their lives with poor physical and mental health, more than twice the 14.9% cited by women in the richest areas.

For men, the figures are 29% and 13% respectively.

Of the 32 councils areas in Scotland, 18 saw a growth in population, and 14 a decline last year, with growth highest in Midlothian and Edinburgh and depopulation worst in Inverclyde, Argyll & Bute and Aberdeen.

Publishing Scotland’s Population, the annual review of demographic trends, Registrar general Paul Lowe said: This year’s review shows that there have been changes in Scotland’s life expectancy and mortality trends.

“Life expectancy has been increasing over the long term, but recent estimates indicate that it has stopped improving.

“The largest causes of the stall in life expectancy are the slowing of improvements seen in the reduction of deaths from heart disease and increases in drug-related deaths.”

READ MORE: Scotland’s drug death shame

Tory MSP Miles Briggs said: "This shocking revelation highlights the national scandal that is Scotland’s high number of drug deaths.

"Too many Scots lives are being destroyed by addiction while the SNP continues to pursue its misguided maintenance policy.

"The Scottish Conservatives have already called for a cross-party summit in order to understand and tackle this problem but the SNP has failed to engage.

"We have also spelled out our approach to tackling addiction and set a target to reduce drug deaths by 50% over the next five years. This is a crisis that the Scottish Conservatives are committed to solving but the SNP must act."

Labour MSP David Stewart said: "It’s shameful that life expectancy of both men and women in Scotland has slowed down and now fallen.

"Not only does Scotland have the lowest life expectancy rates of any part of the UK, the life expectancy gap between the richest and the poorest is growing - it cannot be right that those living in the richest areas can also expect to live in good health for over 20 years longer than those in poorest areas.

"That rising numbers of drugs deaths are contributing to falling life expectancy is also troubling. Scottish Labour has been clear that the drugs deaths crisis needs urgent action and is calling on the SNP to legally designate a public health emergency.

"The SNP government has failed to tackle intolerable health inequalities after over a decade in power.”

External Affairs Secretary Fiona Hyslop said: “While Scotland’s total population is the highest it’s ever been, and it is welcome that people are living longer, we face a number of challenges.

“Against a backdrop of a record fall in the birth rate, Scotland’s population is ageing with a shift in population from the west to east and declining population in rural areas.

“With all of Scotland’s population growth predicted to come from migration, the impact and risk of Brexit means that we may not have a large enough working age population to support public services, industries and our economy.

“The cornerstones of a strong economy are productivity, participation and population. We need to grow our population to ensure we have sustainable, vibrant and resilient communities and drive improvements in inclusive growth.”

A Scottish Government spokesperson added: "The Public Health Minister has stated on a number of occasions that what Scotland faces in terms of drugs deaths is an emergency. That is why we have set up a taskforce to advise on what further changes, in practice or in law, could help save lives and reduce harm.

“We want to implement a range of public health focused responses that ensure a range of high quality, person centred services are available to those most at risk. This includes innovative, evidence-based approaches – such as the introduction of supervised drug consumption facilities – and we have called on the UK Government to use their powers through the Misuse of Drugs Act to enable us to implement such facilities in Glasgow.”