He suffers from poor mental health, lives in a deprived area of Dundee and has children.
It’s a description that could apply to a large number of the city’s population – but these are some of the typical circumstances of a drug death victim in Tayside.
According to a new report from the region’s health chiefs, the number of drug deaths in Dundee rose from 38 in 2016 to 51 last year.
The average victim was a 38-year-old man who died in his own home with a cocktail of drugs – including heroin – in his system. His early years had a heavy influence on his adult life – he suffered at least one adverse childhood event, such as being in detention or ill health, his parents were separated and he had an unstable school life.
In later life, he committed crimes to fund his drug use and was in and out of prison.
NHS Tayside’s drug death review group said its findings show the need to tackle current trends. The report stated: “We look forward to hearing the observations and recommendations of the Dundee Drugs Commission and will continue to work with partner agencies to develop and improve the work of the Tayside Drug Death Review Group in future.”
Although the report describes a typical drug death victim, individuals’ circumstances vary widely.
Only 57 of the 73 people killed by drugs across Tayside had been convicted of a crime in their lives – meaning more than one in five had no criminal record.
Just under half had no known prison record, though 13 of the victims had spent time behind bars in the year leading up to their deaths. Nearly a fifth of the victims had experienced physical violence in their lives, while 10% had suffered sexual abuse.
Perhaps most shocking is the impact the deaths had on children. A total of 79 kids lost a parent to drugs last year.
The report said this experience placed them at increased risk themselves of harm and substance misuse in later life.
That is backed by another statistic showing that at least one parent of 15 drug death victims – about 20% – had substance misuse or mental health issues.
It was also revealed that 65 of the 73 drug death casualties had suffered from a mental health issue at some point in their lives – while 54 had one at the time of their death.
Dr Emma Fletcher, chairwoman of the review group, said: “Our sympathies are with all of the families affected by the tragedy of a death resulting from drug use.”
She added it was hoped that a programme to extend the availability of naloxone kits, which can reverse the effects of certain drugs, would have an impact.