Drug-related deaths in England and Wales reach record levels, says ONS

Heroin on the street

The number of drug-related deaths in England and Wales has reached a record high, according to data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

The statistics show there were 4,359 deaths related to drug poisoning in England and Wales in 2018 — the highest number of deaths and the highest annual increase at 16% since records began in 1993.

The data were revealed after it was found that drug-related deaths in Scotland increased by 27% in a year to 1,187 deaths in 2018 — the highest drug-related death rate in the EU.

In England, the North East had a significantly higher rate of deaths relating to drug misuse than all other English regions, and London had the lowest rate.

Meanwhile, males accounted for more than two-thirds of drug-related deaths in 2018, at 2,984 male deaths compared to 1,375 female deaths. 

The statistics also showed that between 2017 and 2018, there were increases in the number of deaths involving a range of substances, although opiates, such as heroin and morphine, continued to be the most frequently mentioned type of drug.

Emily Finch, vice-chair of the Royal College of Psychiatrist’s addictions faculty, said these record statistics “should serve as a wake-up call to the government that their approach to addiction services is putting people’s lives at risk”.

She said the 28% cut in spending in today’s prices on adult drug misuse services in England since 2013/2014, “has starved services of the money needed to treat people living with this potentially life-ending illness”.

Last updated
Citation
The Pharmaceutical Journal, August 2019;Online:DOI:10.1211/PJ.2019.20206962