Drug-related deaths in England and Wales reach record high with cocaine fatalities rising for the eighth year in a row, ONS says
- 2019 had the highest number of drug-related deaths in the past 25 years
- The drug-related death rate for women increased for the 10th year in a row
- Generation X, had the highest death rates from drug misuse over time
Drug-related deaths in England and Wales reach record high, with cocaine deaths rising for the eighth year in a row, ONS says.
Official figures show 2019 had the highest number of dug – related deaths in the past 25 years.
According to the Office for National Statistics (ONS) there were 4,393 drug poisoning deaths last year, compared to 4,359 deaths in 2018, the highest figure since records began in 1993.
The figures show that the drugs-related death rate of men was twice as high as that of women, with 104.7 deaths registered per million men, compared to 49.1 deaths per million women.
According to ONS there were 4,393 drug poisoning deaths last year
While the majority of deaths involved opiates (2,160), cocaine fatalities increased for the eighth year in a row, by 7.7% for male deaths and by 26.5% for female deaths.
Ben Humberstone, deputy director of health analysis and life events at the ONS, said: ‘The number of deaths due to drug poisoning registered in 2019 remains at a similar level to 2018.
‘Almost half of all drug related deaths involved opiates such as heroin and morphine.
‘However, cocaine deaths rose for the eighth consecutive year to their highest level.’
The death rate in England and Wales reached 76.7 deaths per million people in 2019, up from 46.6 deaths per million in 2012.
The drug-related death rate for women increased for the 10th year in a row
Three quarters of the recorded deaths were due to accidental poisoning (3,321), followed by intentional self-poisoning (941 deaths).
The remaining deaths were caused by mental and behavioural disorders as a result of drug use or assault involving drugs.
The drug-related death rate for women increased for the 10th year in a row, with the death rates involving drug misuse reaching a new high of 27.7 deaths per million.
Men accounted for two-thirds (2,968) of the registered deaths.
The drug-related deaths rate in the North East was almost three times as high as the area with the lowest rate in 2019.
There were 95 deaths per million people in the North East, compared to 33.6 deaths per million people in the East of England.
Rates have been higher in the most deprived areas over the last decade.
Cocaine fatalities increased for the eighth year in a row by 26.5% for female deaths
The death rates of people in their forties living in the most deprived areas were at least five-and-a-half times higher than those in the least deprived, the ONS said.
Those born in the 1960s and 1970s, known as Generation X, had the highest death rates from drug misuse over time, it added.
Professor Julia Sinclair, chairwoman of the Addictions Faculty of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, said drug-related deaths are preventable but years of cuts have left services ill-equipped and under-resourced.
She said: ‘Loss of addiction psychiatry expertise through lack of training places and community services often being split from the NHS are only making things worse, with patients with multiple health needs no longer getting joined-up care.
The Generation X, had the highest death rates from drug misuse over time
‘The tragic number of drug-related deaths should be all the evidence the Government needs to substantially invest in addiction services, before more lives are needlessly lost.’
Laura Bunt, deputy chief executive at the charity We Are With You, said: ‘Issues such as rising homelessness, poor mental health and a lack of economic opportunities in some areas all lead to people using drugs.
‘It’s therefore no surprise that drug-related deaths are highest in the UK’s most deprived areas, with the impact of the Covid-19 crisis likely to exacerbate many of these issues.
‘For people already facing issues with drugs, alcohol and mental health, these may intensify over the coming months.’
James Nicholls, chief executive of Transform Drug Policy Foundation, added: ‘After seven years of record deaths, the Government must focus on keeping people alive.
‘Current policy is not protecting people or our communities, and is actively blocking measures we know can reduce deaths.’
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