Scotland Trainspotting fact of the day

Last year there were 1,187 drug-related deaths in Scotland, a record, and a staggering increase of 27 percent from the year before. Overdoses are more common in Scotland, by some measures, than even in the United States.


Scotland wasn’t always the “sick man of Europe.”

Until around 1950, life expectancy there was on par with most of Western Europe, or better. But after World War II, things in Scotland improved more slowly than in any other Western European country.

If you would like an anecdote:

Mr. Nugent had been using the drug on and off since he was 19, but overdosed the first time he shot up again. He has overdosed three more times since last year.

“I’ve nearly died four times,” said Mr. Nugent, who turns 43 this month. “It’s getting harder for me to recover as I get older.”

Here is the full NYT story by Allison McCann.


Why is this even news? In a libertarian society people should be free to take their own life if they want to... just sayin'.

In my opinion, Libertarianism as a form of governance fails the cost-benefit test. Individuals often do not maximize their utility, and the benefits of surrendering some agency (or in the case of addicts, the illusion of agency) can outweigh the cost.

Libertarianism is not subject to such a cost-benefit analysis. You have no business taking my benefits or covering my costs.

"You have no business...." How can you assertively make that claim? You don't live in a vacuum. You voluntarily exist in American society and are hence subject to the will of the public, within the constraints of the Constitution.

Imagine an 18 year old telling their parents "you don't have the right to take my Xbox! That violates my freedom!" Or a father telling his stay-at-home wife "you have no right to rely on me!" In both cases, the notion of a "right" is less meaningful than that person's participation in the family unit. If they don't want their "rights" violated, they can just leave.

Most crimes in Western countries are committed by drug users and sellers. THAT is the major problem with drugs and the reason why society has a right and responsibility to control it.

No, you have the right to jail people who steal stuff, not use correlates to justify taking away peoples' rights.

DO you have a right to enforce stop sign and stop light laws? Do you have a right to make it illegal to expose yourself? Is it legal to require seat belts? Where does your libertarian BS end?

there are 7.5 billion people in this world many of them in poverty stricken surrounds suffer daily through no fault of their own

that a very small minority from wealthy western surroundshave made a mess of their lives, one way or another, through free choices is of no real concern
nobody forced the needle into their arm...i have far more compassion for the millions who suffer through no fault of their own than the few who suffer from choices they made freely

Dude, while what you say is understandable, but you have clearly never been near places or people that fell to the drugs. Their "choices" are quite often forced, specifically by their families, poverty, political climate and so on. Suffering is not a monopoly for undeveloped countries, "wealthy western" also have people that have shit in their lives and know no better than to relinquish control and fall down the self-destructive path. Sure, they make on of the worst decisions, but all people have faults and if we don't help each other understand how to deal with them, cue inhuman behavior.

Neither you nor 'society' are my parents. FO slaver.

We have a completely non-libertarian approach to drug laws and people are dying -- and yet somehow this is a sign that libertarian approaches don't work!?

The success of non-libertarian approaches is dictated by the intelligence exercised in their design and implementation. Small government vs. Big government is besides the point. We need smart government. The problem is that we often elect people we'd "like to have a beer with" rather than the most intelligent politicians as they do in countries like Singapore.

Libertarian approaches do not need smart people in charge to work. That's part of the reason they are better.

No, this is a sign that libertarian approaches would double or triple the number of deaths.

Assumes facts not in evidence.

When you say surrendering agency are you referring to forcing treatment? The problem then becomes who defines sickness and how it will get enforced. For someone who is healthy, being accused of mental illness and thrown into the funny farm as a result is a frightening prospect. Defining mental illness is also critical. Homosexuality used to be a mental disease. Is racism a disease? On this blog some joke that progressivism is a mental disease. I'd say the cost benefit isn't fully fleshed out just yet.


-Marijuana Legalization?
Benefits >>> Cost

- Hard Drug Legalization?
Cost > Benefit

- Forced rehab for those at imminent risk of overdose/death?
Benefits > cost. This program can be designed in such a way that the freedom sacrificed isn’t too large. Nancy who might be taking a bit too many painkillers but isn’t missing work won’t qualify. Free rehab might be good enough, and in that case the “agency” sacrifice is on the taxpayers losing a marginal amount of their wealth to pay for the rehab.

- High alcohol/liquor taxes?
Benefits > cost. There is marginally more drinking than there should be, and taxes would bring us back to equilibrium. It would also make heavy drinking particularly expensive, and that has the most negative externalities.

Using force means there will a lawsuit or six so I'm not so sure about the benefits to cost there. I agree that free rehab is the good enough answer.

Again, FO slaver. I'm not interested in being brick and mortar in for you to use in constructing your 'perfect society' in accordance with your entirely arbitrary moral standards.

The Scots are snorting their future away while the Irish become homeless. Brexit is a mess. The Isles could use a little attention.

Has Brexit already happened?

In other UK news, drug overdose has surpassed suicide as the leading killer of middle aged British men. Good on the UK for beating back suicide!

This "cuck" meme has made its way to Ireland it seems. Wonder why the MR commenters are so offended by it. It clearly comes from "cuckoo" and aptly describes what is going on using a natural biological analogy.

dammit Thiago!
the sociologists mixed up the toxicology screens.
we were supposed to get john hopkins "public" hospital tox results
not toxicolology results for the whole country of scotland?
When we get the John Hopkins tox screens we compare them
to Scotlands! win-win (save a few bucks)

I never saw a dude try four times for the Award - and fail each time.

It merits at least an Honorable Mention.

No! Try not. Do, or do not. There is no try.

Such is life in Sturgeon's Scotland.

parrot narratives do not grow this big in brazil

Sounds like Scotland could use some robust young migrants for replacement purposes.

So Scotland remains in the UK? Is Brexit-fretting so unnerving?

Does cheap heroin come ashore from North Sea drilling platforms or are supplies "mainlined" from London? (Never caught the film, seldom catch the Times.)

Not sure if this article really tell us anything new but I think it is worth talking about the overdose issue. I am not totally sure what is the proposed solution here. I think it is kind of obvious that the continuing liberalization of drugs will increase the number of overdoses, right? Are we going to accept that as a "price of freedom" or are we going to continue to build on this idea that society is a huge mental ward and when someone dies we need to hire more nurses?

“Are we going to accept that as a "price of freedom" or are we going to continue to build on this idea that society is a huge mental ward and when someone dies we need to hire more nurses?“

Goes for guns, too. Or abortion. I guess there really are practices that don’t admit of easy solutions.

"I guess there really are practices that don’t admit of easy solutions."

That is your "little l" showing. Your "Big C" would never even entertain the grim, outlandish thought that there could be solutions in this situation. A conservative would never willingly choose dystopia, which is surely what this is - people repeatedly overdosing on socially-countenanced, probably-soon-to-be-legal drugs, with the government's revival squad standing by to come and administer the antidote. He can have nothing to offer in this conversation, but turn around, don't head this way.

Ha, good point. Actually I try to be flexible without becoming a spineless contortionist. E.g. There is no easy solution to the matter of guns: the right to possess them, and their relative accessibility, means there’s always a risk that someone will slip through the cracks, and be allowed to acquire guns when say for mental health reasons they shouldn’t.

Abortion is also a vexed issues, because of two values clashing: the right to choose and the right to life. Personally a compromise position appeals to me: abortion is acceptable shortly after conception but immoral beyond x weeks.

Re: Drugs, I’m more of an alcohol guy but I suppose people should be free to ingest what they want, unless it harms others. Determining that harm isn’t easy.

I see. "To a gas chamber -- go".

Aside from prohibition, I'm really not convinced there's a problem. The people overdosing on drugs tend to be losers. It is well that they self-terminate.

people abuse drugs & alcohol as temporary anesthesia from life's troubles

it's a personal choice among perceived personal options and usually does give very brief relief

many people cannot handle the stresses of life

suicide is also a popular option

government police action always fails to solve the problem

there are some drawbacks to being a human

The point, I think, is, we can save lives.

people abuse drugs & alcohol as temporary anesthesia from life's troubles

Most of the drinkers and drug users that I've know did not seem to do it for that reason but for entertainment. They like it and are bored without it.

"But after World War II, things in Scotland improved more slowly than in any other Western European country."

I wonder whether it mattered that Scottish industry was harder hit by nationalisation by the post-war government than, for instance, industry in England? Steel, coal, railways, ..: those old industries were proportionately a bigger part of the Scottish than the English economy.

Then when Heath's Conservative government took the UK into the European Common Market, as it then was , it sold the fishing industry down the river. That too was proportionately more important in Scotland than in England.

Anyway one unmistakeable mark of economic decline was that the 1956 general election was the last when the Conservatives won a majority of Scottish seats: thereafter it was a Labour fiefdom for many decades.

It was the curse of oil in the North Sea.

After all, oil is "labor saving", meaning it kills jobs.

The jobs created are in rent seeking.

Heath's Conservative government

AKA 'the flop warm-up act'

Find prior, will confirm!

When I look at the developed coountry's Life expectancy data I think, drugs and alcohol explain a lot. Like why do Italians easily out live the Danish, why do the Scots about match USA the life expectancy.

Italians have botg better lifestyles and probably more apt genetics than Danes on a number of levels, surely?

Italians have better lifestyles because they seem to get drunk less.

Yeah, but they also generally eat better, exercise better, have more extended family connections (tends to be connected to longevity since older folk tend to be more likely to die without carers, reasons to go on, etc.), probably get in fistfights less when young, probably have a qualitatively better approach to dating and marriage, etc.

Compared to the Danes who are, well, Northern European.

Thinking of where the media tends to paint the problem in the US (I don't follow closely, don't know if it's up-to-date) - is there a Scots/Scots-Irish connection here?

They're miserable due to the harm done them by Southern English Public Schoolboys.

Scotland seems to be a genuine case of Brain Drain, going back to the 18th Century. Didn't Englishman Dr. Johnson tell Scotsman Boswell that the noblest prospect a Scotsman ever saw was the high road to England?

For example, Gregory Clark found that of the 25 most common surnames in Britain, the name with the highest % of Oxbridge grads, about double the national average, is "Hamilton."

There have a large number of smart guys named Hamilton in Anglosphere history, but not that many of the smart Hamiltons live in Scotland itself anymore.

Adam Smith and James Watt come to mind instantly

Immigration will fix their problem.

Tsunamis are a serious problem is some parts of Japan and elsewhere. Surely there is a simple cheap solution for preventing tsunamis. It turns out there is: Run fast and high. Death is also a problem and there is also a cheap simple and politically possible solution. Now, let's apply this type of thinking to the drug overdose problem, and to the American shooting spree problem, too while we're fixing the world and everyone in it. As well as the problem of low self-esteem and cyber-bullying. And inequality and rudeness. It will require strong leadership to implement. I wonder if Anglo-Americans have the stomach for it anymore. I hope I don't sound negative but Anglo-Americans seem to have lost their focus. Once, they were People who could make things happen. Now, it's all about the latest Twitter outrage. Maybe the Age of China, or Brazil, is at hand, as was foretold.

A more fact filled article here,

Looking at the deaths it seems like there has been a rapid increase in the last three years in the over 35s, so probably this is due to a change in the availability of a particular drug, one just too strong for the older people rather than something deeply rooted in Scottish culture (or as usual in lazy journalism Thatcher’s fault). Perhaps a contaminant that a change in drug supplier has caused? I read recently that Albanians have taken over the UK drug supply so this could be a cause, maybe the Scottish police are slower to react on this new trend due to the prickly Scottish Government protecting their independence from rest of UK.

Could there be a common genetic connection to opioid issues? I seem to recall that the original settlers of many of the places of "white discontent" and "deaths of despair" are called "Scots-Irish" or "Ulster Scots". Just saw that Peri made the same observation.

The first objection would be that genetic links between Scotland and Appalachia aren't actually very strong in large genetic sequencing data.

Beyond that, the remaining correlation is most likely that many Scots ancestry folk tended to settle frontier regions with rich mining and industrial wealth, and which are now post-industrial and post-extraction, and in the US had a plague of dodgy, pill factory physicians.

For a counterexample as well, note that Northern Irish Protestants ("Scots-Irish") don't have any particularly major issue there relative to England and Wales (

Within Scotland and Northern Britain, the epicentre is also the urban region of Glasgow. Glasgow's on about 25 per 100,000 ( deaths scotland map england wales scotland), where the Scots Borders are on about 8.3 per 100,000 ( Glasgow's mainly Irish, not Scots Irish, of course.

Another problem with the presentation of it as even a British problem, is that whole UK rate is not actually an outlier to Denmark+Norway+Sweden+Estonia, in the above article. Particularly if you adjusted to consider England+Wales+NI, without Scotland lifting the United Kingdom average, the rUK would be below Sweden+Norway+Ireland and about level pegging with Denmark.

Hell, even if you removed Glasgow, the UK rate including Scotland would be fairly comfortably close to Northern Europe.

So the stereotype of clean living and wholesome Scandinavians and debauched Brits (and "Scots Irish" in particular) doesn't really fit...

did anybody read the article about Scotland!
methadone was implicated in 47% of the deaths!
isn't methadone a medically assisted treatment?

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