Drug-related deaths in Scotland have fallen slightly, but the figure is the second-highest on record, according to the latest official figures.

There were 581 deaths in 2012 – three fewer than in 2011, said the National Records of Scotland.

Heroin and or morphine caused 38% of deaths while the heroin substitute, methadone was implicated in 41% deaths.  Benzodiazepine (eg. diazepam) contributed to 34% compared with 32% in 2011.

Cocaine, ecstasy and amphetamines contributed to 31,9 and 18 deaths respectively compared to 36, 8 and 24 respectively in 2011.

A new section of the National Records of Scotland included new psychoactive substances which featured in a total of 47 deaths.

The figures also showed a third of deaths were among people age 35-44.

The Scottish Government pointed out that there had been a fall in the number of deaths linked to methadone, which is prescribed to help heroin users kick their habit.

It also highlighted the fact that many of the deaths were older drug users suffering from years of deteriorating health.

Martin Cawley, Chief Executive of Turning Point Scotland said:

“It is of concern that drug-related deaths are still so high in Scotland. The Scottish Government and Turning Point Scotland recognise that this is a long-term problem with no single solution.

“Turning Point Scotland continues to ensure it provides a programme of interventions particularly designed for people who do not engage with support services and are therefore more exposed to the serious health risks, including the risk of overdose by the prolonged and persistent drug use.

“Tackling drug use doesn’t work in isolation. Addressing housing needs, family support and providing support suited to the individual needs to be considered alongside recovery issues such as education, training and employment opportunities.”