A RECORD number of Scots are being admitted to psychiatric wards with mental and behavioural illnesses linked to drug use.

The latest figures show steady increases in admissions among adults aged between 35 and 54 in particular, with more than half of all admissions linked to use of multiple drugs or substances such as hallucinogens, solvents or psychoactive drugs including ecstasy.

Cannabinoids were also implicated in 16 per cent of drug-related psychiatric admissions in 2018/19, compared to 8.5% five years earlier.


The data, from Public Health Scotland, shows that the number of people in Scotland requiring treatment for mental or behavioural disorders linked to drug use has nearly doubled in the past two decades, but climbed most rapidly in recent years.

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Between 1996/97 and 2014/15, the rate of admissions rose by 30%, from 18.8 to 24.45 per 100,000 population.

However, in the four years to 2018/19 - the most recent year for which statistics are available - the admissions rate suddenly increased by a further 41%, to a record 34.56 per 100,000.

Roughly two thirds of patients admitted in 2018/19 were being treated for their drug use for the first time.


While drug-related admissions to general acute wards were dominated by opioids, which includes heroin as well morphine, fentanyl and oxycodone, the majority (54%) of psychiatric admissions were for patients using multiple drugs or "other" substances.

This can include hallucinogens, psychoactive drugs such as ecstasy, solvents such as glue or aerosols, or substances not covered by existing diagnosis codes.

Tranquilisers, such as benzodiazepines and so-called z-drugs, or stimulants such as amphetamines, are in a separate category, and made up just a fraction of admissions, as did cocaine.

Opioids were linked to a quarter of psychiatric admissions and cannabis-based drugs 16% of admissions.


By age group, the highest rate of drug-related psychiatric admissions was among 35-44-year-olds, up 50% in five years, while the admissions rate in the 45-54 age group is at a record high of 45.75 per 100,000 - up 92% in five years.

The psychiatric admission rate in the 15-24 age group was up 67% over the same period - although it remains around half what it was at its peak around the millennium - while drug-related admissions to general acute wards in the this age group were up 50%.

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A spokesman for the Scottish Drugs Forum said: "Services will tell you they've been working with young people who've been using drugs heavily, often in combination with alcohol. Now those people are turning up in the hospital statistics.

"The public perception of young people who go to a party, have far too much to drink, do some drugs, and end up getting their stomach pumped.

"There will be people like that. But I suspect this is people with far more severe issues in their lives, and using substances heavily."

Total drug-related hospital admissions to general acute wards are up 58% since 2013/14, and are also at record levels.


Monica Lennon, Scottish Labour's health spokeswoman, said this had come at a time when drug and alcohol services had been cut and very few NHS patients are being referred to residential rehabilitation.

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The Herald reported earlier this year that Castle Craig, one of Scotland's longest-established residential rehab facilities, had accommodated just 12 NHS-funded patients in 2019 compared to 257 in 2002.

Only four of the NHS patients were referred by NHS Scotland, with the rest paid for by NHS England, despite Scotland battling record drug deaths.

Official guidelines recommend residential rehabilitation for addicts with complex needs, but budget cuts and a shift to community-based care have been blamed for the decline.

In February, the Scottish Government said it was carrying out a review to assess demand.

Ms Lennon said: "Opportunities are being missed to help people who misuse drugs transition into treatment and recovery programmes, following a hospital stay."

A Scottish Government spokeswoman said that over 95% of patients referred for drug and alcohol treatment, which includes methadone prescription, started therapy within three weeks.

She added: "We want to ensure everyone who requires drug and alcohol treatment has access to it and our budget commits a further £20 million to reduce the harm caused by drugs.

"This means the total spend on drugs and alcohol in 2020-21 will be up to £95.3 million."