England and Wales have yet again recorded their highest ever number of drug-related deaths, according to the latest figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS).
There were 4,561 deaths related to drug poisoning registered in 2020, a 3.6% increase on 2019’s figure of 4,393 (DDN Magazine). Last week also saw Scotland once again record it’s highest ever figure at 1,339.
Two thirds of the poisoning deaths were related to drug misuse, with the highest rate in the 45-49 age range. As in previous years, the North East had the highest rate of deaths, with men accounting for more than two thirds of overall deaths. While just under half of fatalities involved an opiate (heroin, morphine, fentanyl ect), the number of deaths involving cocaine was up by almost 10% to 777 – more than five times the figure from 10 years ago.
The rate of drug poisoning deaths in England & Wales has now increased every year since 2012. This shows no signs of this trend slowing down any time soon with the current measures that are in place for addicts nationwide.Drink ‘n’ Drugs
Deaths involving benzodiazepines were up by more than 19% to 476, while deaths involving pregabalin rose by more than 40% to 344 and gabapentin by 32% to 118. The vast majority of deaths mentioning these substances however, involved combinations that also included other drugs – primarily opiates.
Whilst Wales recorded it’s lowest rate of drug misuse deaths since 2014, the ONS states that death registration delays as a result of COVID-19 “could be affecting” the latest figures.Office For National Statistics
“Drug-related deaths have been on an upward trend for the past decade” says ONS. The reasons behind this are complex and differ by drug type. The overall trend is driven primarily by deaths involving opiates, but also by an increase in deaths involving other substances like cocaine.
Across Europe, rates of deaths involving heroin or morphine have been increasing, while the number of new heroin and morphine users has fallen. This indicates higher rates of death among existing long-term, chronic drug users. Recent trends in taking drugs like gabapentinoids or benzodiazepines alongside heroin or morphine may also increase the risk of overdose, it adds.
Such an increase in the number of drug-related deaths demonstrates the need for us to take action now.Change Grow Live Chief Executive Mark Moody
Drug-related deaths are preventable, not inevitable, and now is the time for change. The recommendations made to UK Government in the Dame Carol Black review offer a once-in-a-generation opportunity to change things for the better, but only if they are implemented in their entirety. No single organisation has the solution, and any national drug strategy “must be led by the voices of the people who are most affected”, he stated.
The figures were “tragic and concerning”, added With You’s executive director of services, Jon Murray. “For many people drug use is a reaction to their environment so it’s no surprise that drug-related deaths are highest in the most deprived areas of the country. Too many people who need treatment aren’t accessing it, and too many people are unaware of the potential harms of their drug use. These figures are unacceptable but we are hopeful that change is possible. We are calling on the government to respond to today’s statistics by bringing serious political commitment to this issue and ensuring the appropriate financial investment is made in the upcoming Comprehensive Spending Review to action the recommendations of Dame Carol Black’s review.”
Release’s Executive Director, Niamh Eastwood, said: “The public health crisis that we are all experiencing as a result of COVID-19 has exposed how structural inequalities have contributed to high deaths rates due the virus, we have seen the same thing in drug related deaths for the last decade.
It is no surprise that in areas of deprivation, where austerity has destroyed social safety nets, we are witnessing the highest levels of drug related deaths linked to drug dependency. Investment in these communities, adequate housing, restoring benefits to a decent level, along with drug policy and harm reduction initiatives can and will save lives.”