• Thursday, March 30, 2023


Drug-related deaths in UK at highest-ever level, says ONS

Representative image of overdose drug addict by iStock

By: Pooja Shrivastava

DRUG-related deaths in England and Wales have risen to their highest level in more than 25 years, say recent government figures released on Tuesday (3), which also stated that cocaine-related deaths among women have spiked by more than 800 per cent.

Men and teenage boys accounted for more than two-thirds of the total figure, as per Office for National Statistics (ONS) which said that a total of 4,561 deaths involving drug poisoning were registered in 2020, the highest-ever number since records began in 1993. 

The rate of cocaine-related deaths among women saw a spike of more than 800 per cent in the last 10 years, from 16 deaths in 2010 to 158 deaths in 2020, says the ONS data. Overall, cocaine deaths have shot up from 144 in 2010 to 777 registered last year.

Age-wise, members of Generation X, who are now aged between 40 and 49, have had the highest rates of drug deaths over the past 25 years, which ONS pointed out as a possible ageing cohort of drug users with the effects of long-term use and becoming more susceptible to a fatal overdose.

Also, North East of England saw more deaths as the numbers there were three times the number of London, which has the lowest figure. 

Of the deaths registered last year, two thirds (2,996) were related to drug misuse, and half (2,263) involved an opiate such as heroin or morphine while almost a quarter (1,050) of drug poisoning deaths registered had no drug type recorded on the coroner’s death certificate as some records only mention “drug overdose” or “multiple drug toxicity”.

As more than half of all drug poisoning deaths involve more than one drug, it is not possible in those cases to tell which drug was primarily responsible for the death, ONS stressed in the recent release of data.

The number of deaths involving prescription and “street” benzodiazepines increased from 399 to 476 from 2019 to last year, and the number of fatalities involving anticonvulsant drugs pregabalin and gabapentin rose from 333 to 462.

A separate report last week showed Glasgow is the most badly affected out of all European cities in terms of drug-related deaths with 1,339 people reported to have died from drug misuse last year in Scotland.



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