Get help now

Drug related deaths

Your support network and the right information can help you cope with a drug related death

If you have experienced a drug related death, you will need people from your support network that you can talk to. Some family support groups are specifically for those who have experienced a drug related death. Others will be able to listen to you, offer support and signpost you to other sources of help. Counselling may also help.

Having information about what to expect in the weeks and months following a drug-related death can also help you cope.

Procurator Fiscal

The Procurator Fiscal (otherwise known as the Fiscal) is a lawyer who works for Scotland’s prosecution service. The Fiscal has the responsibility of investigating any sudden, suspicious, accidental, unexpected or unexplained deaths which give rise to serious public concern. The Fiscal has legal responsibility for the deceased person until the cause of death has been established and the death certificate issued.

Once the police report has been received the Fiscal will investigate the cause of death. The Fiscal will be assisted by the police and will normally interview anyone who can provide information.  It is usual for the police to speak to the deceased’s GP to get their recent medical history.

Within days of the death a post mortem will be carried out. If there are any objections to a post mortem these should be addressed to the Fiscal. Formal identification of the body may also be necessary. If close family members want to view the body, the Fiscal or police can sometimes arrange this.

Registering the death

All deaths have to be registered with The General Register Office for Scotland within eight days. Visit the General Register Office for Scotland website for more information.

People who may need to be informed of the death include: GP and/or hospital; anyone who was involved in their drug treatment; their employer; their bank, pension or insurance company; mortgage provider, landlord or housing association; car insurers; post office (if their mail needs to be redirected).


After the post mortem the first part of the death certificate will be released. However, toxicology reports (which involve blood and urine analysis) can take up to six months and the second part of the death certificate, listing cause of death, will not be issued until these are complete. Sometimes the Fiscal can arrange for a temporary death certificate to be issued to allow the funeral to go ahead.

If your loved one has left savings, property and/or debts then these will need to be dealt with. It may be helpful to gather together any relevant paperwork such as: their will; bank books/statements; insurance documents; benefit books; mortgage or rent statements; savings certificates; credit card and/or loan statements; utility bills.

Possible media interest

Drug-related deaths can attract attention and the circumstances may be reported in the local press. This can be very stressful and painful, particularly if insensitive or inaccurate information is printed. It may help to prepare a written statement about your loved one.

Bereavement counselling

Scottish Families provide a free bereavement support service including counselling.  This can be arranged on your behalf with a counsellor near to where you stay.  For information on this service please see Bereavement Support Service.