Mortality among individuals prescribed opioid-agonist therapy in Scotland, 2011-2020: a national retrospective cohort study

Andrew McAuley*, Rosalyn Fraser, Megan Glancy, Alan Yeung, Hayley E. Jones, Peter Vickerman, Hannah Fraser, Lara Allen, Scott A. McDonald, Jack Stone, David Liddell, Lee Barnstable, Saket Priyadarshi, Andreas Markoulidakis, Matthew Hickman, Sharon J. Hutchinson

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Citations (Scopus)
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Drug-related death (DRD) rate in Scotland, UK, has increased rapidly to one of the highest in the world. Our aim was to examine the extent to which opioid-agonist therapy (OAT) in Scotland is protective against drug-related mortality and how this effect has varied over time.

We included individuals in Scotland with opioid use disorder who received at least one OAT prescription between Jan 1, 2011, and Dec 31, 2020. We calculated drug-related mortality rates and used Quasi-Poisson regression models to estimate trends over time and by OAT exposure, adjusting for potential confounding.

In a cohort of 46 453 individuals prescribed OAT with a total of 304 000 person-years of follow-up, DRD rates more than trebled from 6·36 per 1000 person-years (95% CI 5·73–7·01) in 2011–12 to 21·45 (20·31–22·63) in 2019–20. DRD rates were almost three and a half times higher (hazard ratio 3·37; 95% CI 1·74–6·53) for those off OAT compared with those on OAT after adjustment for confounders. However, confounder adjusted DRD risk increased over time for both people off and on OAT.

Drug-related mortality rates among people with opioid use disorders in Scotland increased between 2011 and 2020. OAT remains protective but is insufficient on its own to slow the increase in DRD risk for people who are opioid dependent in Scotland.

Scottish Government Drug Deaths Taskforce, Public Health Scotland, and National Institute for Health and Care Research.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)e484-e493
JournalLancet Public Health
Issue number7
Early online date7 Jun 2023
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2023

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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