A rise in prescription drug use across the UK could be fueling a hidden crisis affecting millions, experts have said, as Scottish government data shows a dramatic rise in deaths linked to tranquilisers.
Doctors, drug counsellors and charity workers say a growing number of people coming through their doors are seeking help for prescription drug addictions.
It comes as new data shows a surge in deaths in Scotland linked to Alprazolam, a benzodiazepine tranquiliser used to treat anxiety and panic disorders, and sold under the trade name Xanax.
The number of deaths increased from a handful between 2007 and 2015, to two in 2015, 24 in 2016 and 99 last year. Deaths linked to benzodiazepines generally went from 192 in 2015 to 431 in 2016 and 555 last year.
A breakdown of the figures prepared for the Guardian by the National Records of Scotland showed those who died in 2017 were mostly men over the age of 35, fitting the profile of the so-called Trainspotting generation of long-term, habitual drug takers who first began using in the 1980s and 1990s.
Xanax is not available on the NHS and can only be obtained on a private prescription in the UK. It is usually sourced from the internet or other illegal suppliers. Tranquillisers are controlled under class C of the Misuse of Drugs Act.