ISD Scotland better information, better decisions, better health

Drug Misuse

Prevalence of Problem Drug Use

NHS National Services Scotland ISD Scotland & NHS National Services Scotland

Estimating the Prevalence of Problem Drug Use in Scotland in 2015/16

ISD Scotland are currently undertaking the latest national drug prevalence study. Initial findings will be published on the ISD website in April 2018, with a final report by August 2018.

A study to produce prevalence estimates of problem drug use (PDU) has been conducted in Scotland every 3 years since 2000. The 2015/16 study is being undertaken by ISD’s Consultancy Services Team, who were responsible for producing similar estimates for 2009/10 and 2012/13.

The work has been commissioned by the Scottish Government and the results will inform progress on the Scotland Performs National Indicator - Reduce the number of individuals with problem drug use.

The study aims to collate and analyse sufficient appropriate data to produce robust estimates of the prevalence of problem drug use (PDU) and injecting drug use (IDU) amongst individuals aged 15-64 in Scotland during 2015/16. Estimates will be calculated for Scotland as a whole and for Local Authorities, NHS Boards and Alcohol and Drug Partnerships.

To date, problem drug use has been defined as the problematic use of opioids (including illicit and prescribed methadone use) and/or the illicit use of benzodiazepines, and implies routine and prolonged use as opposed to recreational and occasional drug use. For the 2015/16 study the definition has been expanded to include: cocaine, illicit amphetamines and cannabinoids (note: estimates will still be produced based on the original Scottish definition of PDU to maintain the time trend). This will provide a more complete picture of PDU in Scotland and more comparable data with the rest of the UK and Europe.

The data sources are the same as in previous years, namely:

  • Clients registering with/receiving specialist drug treatment services
  • Drug-related hospital admissions
  • Police data on individuals detained or arrested under the Misuse of Drugs Act
  • Criminal Justice Social Work reports

Approval to carry out the 2015/16 study has been granted by the Public Benefit and Privacy Panel for Health & Social Care. A multi-agency Advisory Group is providing expert advice to the project.

Our Privacy Notice explains how we will use the information we collect about individuals to estimate the prevalence of problem drug use among individuals aged 15-64 in Scotland in 2015/16.

Reports from previous drug prevalence studies (2009/10 and 2012/13) are available on the Drugs and Alcohol Misuse Publications page.

Please direct any enquiries or requests for further information to .


© ISD Scotland 2010
Information Services Division,
NHS National Services Scotland,
Gyle Square,
1 South Gyle Crescent,
Edinburgh EH12 9EB,
Tel: 0131 275 7050  
Contact Us

About Information Services Division | Contact Us | Accessibility | Complaints
Copyright | Terms and Conditions | Privacy | Freedom of Information

ISD is a division of NHS NSS
Working at the very heart of the health service, NSS delivers services critical to frontline patient care and in support of the efficient and effective operation of NHS Scotland. Visit the NSS Website for more information