Drug trends in two forensic populations within Strathclyde and a national evaluation of the field impairment test
An investigation was carried out into all drug-related deaths that occurred within the Strathclyde Police region of Scotland over the 17-year period, 1985-2001. Deaths involving heroin, methadone, dihydrocodeine or cocaine were the focus of this thesis. In total, more than 1,000 cases were reviewed. By extracting data from the toxicology report and police sudden death report, changes in patterns and trends of drug misuse were highlighted which coincided with concurrent changes to legislation and medical care. This is a novel approach to the investigation of drug-related deaths within this jurisdication. Over the study period 869 heroin positive drug-related deaths were identified, in 95% of which what drug was the sole or the major contributory causal factor. The majority of these deaths involved males. The average age of all individuals increased slightly from 26 years to 29 years over the study period. The individual had a history of drug misuse in 95% of cases and of those, 92% were known to abuse drugs intravenously. Approximately one quarter of individuals resided alone and over one-half resided with other people, primarily their parents or (common law) partners/spouses. The individual was homeless in 14% of cases. Of this group, 70% resided in a hostel. The remainder had no fixed abode. Of cases where the postal code was known, 74% resided within the Greater Glasgow Health Board area. In the last year of the study deaths of individuals residing in the Ayrshire and Arran Health Board area increased sharply compared to a decrease in deaths reported in all other areas. Approximately two-thirds of individuals resided in areas of high deprivation (categories 6 and 7). The locus where the body was found was primarily in a dwelling (73%), usually the individual’s own home. From the circumstances surrounding the deaths it was ascertained that the individual was alone at the time of death in just under half the cases, highlighting the risk of taking drugs in isolation.