top of page

Drug-related deaths in England and Wales reach record high

Drug-related deaths in England and Wales reach record high
There has been a rise in cocaine-related deaths
Drug-related deaths in England and Wales have risen for the eighth year in a row and remain at their highest level in more than a quarter of a century, figures show.

( JB Comments: Maybe being in a global pandemic has something to do with it and Alcohol killed more people in 2020 in England and Wales than in any of the previous 20 years, official data shows. There were 7,423 deaths from alcohol misuse last year - a rise of 20% from 2019, the Office for National Statistics says . We have all been in fear mode, numerous panicked lockdowns, the PM waffling on and on about staying safe etc. thousands dead, the world closed except food shops and hospitals - and is it no wonder many have turned to drink and drugs to help ease them through this period, I know I have.... there is only so much TV we can watch, so many board games we can play and so much DIY we can do to keep ourselves sane ... and even wanking gets a bit boring after a while - and escapism - be it drugs, booze, or any other mind altering thing, ( mad passionate sex... but you kind of need a partner for that ... ) helps us manage through these times.. )

There were 4,561 deaths related to drug poisoning registered in England and Wales in 2020, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said. This is the highest number since records began in 1993, and up 3.8% from the previous year.

Responding to the figures, support groups said the rise constitutes a public health emergency and called for the Government to “wake up” following years of cuts to addiction services. Due to death registration delays, around half of the deaths will have occurred in the previous year and the majority before the coronavirus pandemic, the ONS said. The ONS figures cover fatal accidents, suicides and complications involving controlled and non-controlled drugs, prescription and over-the-counter medications.

They show that rates of drug-related deaths have risen by 60.9% in the past 10 years – from 49.4 deaths per million in 2010 to 79.5 deaths per million in 2020. Of the deaths registered last year, two thirds (2,996) were related to drug misuse, and around half (2,263) involved an opiate. Some 777 deaths involved cocaine – a 9.7% rise from 2019 and more than five times higher than the 144 cocaine-related deaths registered in 2010.

It is the ninth consecutive annual rise in deaths linked to cocaine use.

Males accounted for more than two thirds of the registered deaths (3,108).

Separate figures released last week showed that there were 1,339 drug related deaths registered in Scotland last year. The country continues to have the worst drug death rate in Europe.

The ONS figures show a north-south divide in rates of deaths due to drug misuse.

The North East experienced the highest rate – 104.6 deaths per million – three times higher than the lowest rate, which was in London: 33.1 deaths per million.

Wales recorded its lowest rate since 2014 – 51.1 deaths per million – which was an annual fall of 9.1%. The ONS said death registration delays could be affecting the figures.

The rates of drug related deaths for males and females in the most deprived areas of England were around five-and-a-half times higher than the rates in the least deprived parts.

The highest rate of drug misuse deaths was found in those aged 45 to 49, followed by those aged 40 to 44. So-called Generation X, born in the 1970s, has consistently had the highest rates of drug misuse deaths in the past quarter of a century.

In 2016, there were 64 deaths related to volatile substances ( glue sniffing ) registered in Great Britain. In 2019, Deaths related to cannabis use in England and Wales amounted to 31, the highest annual amount in the last 25 years. So there you have it, more people die from sniffing glue than smoking Cannabis.

RIGHT PICTURE: Myanmar street kids turn to sniffing glue to forget hunger - now - what does that say about a country that allows kids to go hungry so they turn to sniffing glue to forget their hunger.

The ONS said possible explanations for the rise could be that there is an ageing cohort of drug users experiencing the effects of long-term use and becoming more susceptible to a fatal overdose.

And new trends involving taking specific drugs, such as benzodiazepines, alongside heroin and morphine may increase the risk of overdose. The figures follow a landmark review by Dame Carol Black, which set out 30 recommendations to Government to help overcome drug harm and called for significant investment in England’s treatment and recovery system. Eytan Alexander, a recovering addict and chief executive of the UK Addiction Treatment Group, said the rise is “saddening but unsurprising”.

He said: “We’re living in a parallel pandemic; a drug, alcohol and mental health pandemic that has only worsened due to the virus.

“Enough is enough now, we need to come together as a society and take real action to help vulnerable people before more people lose their lives.”

Dr Emily Finch, vice-chair of the addictions faculty at the Royal College of Psychiatrists, said: “Years of cuts have left addictions services ill-equipped to treat people and prevent these deaths from rising.

“The Government needs to wake up to the fact that cuts to services, disconnecting NHS mental health services from addiction services and shifting the focus away from harm reduction to abstinence-based recovery is destroying lives and fuelling the increase in drug-related deaths.”

Jon Murray, executive director of services in England at the charity With You, said it is no surprise that deaths were highest in the most deprived areas.