About this release

This release by Public Health Scotland (PHS) provides a Scottish Public Health Observatory (ScotPHO) update for the Drugs topic area, where the 'Treatment for Drug Misuse' page contains new data.

Main points

Drugs – Treatment for Drug Misuse

In 2020/21, Opioid Substitution Therapy (OST) was prescribed to an estimated minimum of 29,416 people in Scotland.

The estimated minimum number of people prescribed OST in Scotland has been in the range of approximately 29,250 to 29,750 people in each year since 2016/17.


These figures estimate the number of individuals prescribed Opioid Substitution Therapy (OST) drugs for the treatment of opioid dependence from legacy British National Formulary (BNF) subsection 04.10.03, by their local authority of residence. This includes methadone hydrochloride, buprenorphine, buprenorphine & naloxone and long-acting buprenorphine (including Buvidal© slow-release formulations). Lofexidine hydrochloride and naltrexone hydrochloride (both primarily used for the management of opioid withdrawals) are not included.

These figures are based on the number of unique Community Health Index (CHI) numbers captured from named community prescriptions for relevant medications at any time in a financial year. These figures are described as 'estimates' or 'minimum numbers' due to issues associated with CHI capture for OST prescriptions which mean that it is challenging to provide a robust count of the number of people prescribed these medications. Although in some areas CHI capture remains below the agreed threshold of reliability for individual-level analysis (usually only reported when CHI completeness is above 85-90%), due to the public interest in OST prescribing, these statistics are published as management information.

The Scottish Public Health Observatory (external website) collaboration is led by PHS and includes the Glasgow Centre for Population Health, National Records of Scotland, the Medical Research Council/Chief Scientist Office Social and Public Health Sciences Unit and the Scottish Learning Disabilities Observatory.

The aim of the collaboration is to make public health information more accessible, to promote the reduction in inequalities and to inform health improvement in Scotland.

Further information

Data from this publication are available from the publication page of the ScotPHO website (external website).

The next ScotPHO quarterly update will be released on 29 March 2022.

The next release of these statistics will be in summer 2022.

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Older versions of this publication

Versions of this publication released before 16 March 2020 may be found on the Data and Intelligence, Health Protection Scotland or Improving Health websites.

Last updated: 21 March 2024
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