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Drug Related Deaths Highest Since Records Began

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The government has released its figures for deaths related to drug poisoning in England and Wales for 2016. You can view them on the Office for National Statistics website here.

Figures are the highest they have ever been, and keep growing. Over half (54%) of all deaths related to drug poisoning in 2016 involved opiates, and the highest rate of drug misuse deaths was in people aged 40-49 years old, overtaking the 30-39 age group.

Drug related deaths are a national scandal and it is right that they are included in the Government’s new drug strategy.

The government release also notes that poly drug use is a large contributing factor to these shocking statistics. “Over half of all drug poisoning deaths involve more than one drug and/or alcohol, and it is not possible to tell which substance was primarily responsible for the death.”

At Addaction, we work with people from some of the most deprived parts of the country and these figures show a correlation between deprivation and drug-related deaths.

There is strong evidence of what we can do to reduce this spiralling trend.

Aging heroin users are becoming increasingly frail and issues like lung disease and hepatitis make them even more vulnerable – this is one reason for the increase. We’re talking about people with multiple and complex needs, so we need to carry on working with other services and the Government to tackle a range of issues including health inequalities, access to mental and physical healthcare, homelessness and unemployment.

One key thing is to get both physical and mental health treatment right alongside other support. Local commissioners should look carefully at recent guidance from PHE and consider how they can make changes to invest in evidence-based treatment.

At Addaction we’re taking steps support our most vulnerable clients. In Liverpool, we piloted a scheme that tested opiate users for respiratory problems; identifying hundreds of people who were unaware they had emphysema and referring them for treatment. In the South West, another pilot with the Hepatitis C Trust has been enormously successful in testing, treating and supporting people with Hepatitis C. Across the UK we’ve been rolling out naloxone programmes, which play a significant role in saving the lives of people who have overdosed.

Drug Related Deaths Highest Since Records Began