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Deaths due to drug poisoning in England and Wales reach record high

Statistics show that 777 of the drug poising-related deaths last year involved cocaine

  • Safi Bugel
  • 3 August 2021
Deaths due to drug poisoning in England and Wales reach record high

Drug poising deaths in England and Wales have reached a record high, according to data from the Office for National Statistics.

The figures also highlight an increasing number of people dying after using cocaine and opiates.

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Specifically, there were 4,561 recorded drug misuse deaths in 2020 - the equivalent of 79.5 deaths per million people. This statistic marks a 3.8% rise from the previous year and the highest amount of deaths by drug poisoning since records began back in 1993.

The figures account for fatal accidents, suicides and complications around controlled and non-controlled drugs, prescription and over-the-counter medications.

A fifth of the registered deaths were found to be from to accidental poisoning.

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Men made up more than two-thirds of said deaths in 2020, whilst the age group with the highest rate was 45-49 years. The category of people aged 40-44 followed closely.

The highest rate of these deaths was seen in the North East of England.

777 of the deaths recorded last year involved cocaine and approximately half involved an opiate.

The new data prompts further concern around the declining number of services available to vulnerable people, including those with drug addictions - particularly during the ongoing pandemic.

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Dr Emily Finch, vice-chair of the addictions faculty at the Royal College of Psychiatrists has 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.”

Safi Bugel is Mixmag's Digital Intern, follow her on Twitter

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