It was revealed today that the number of drug-related deaths has reached record levels in England and Wales during 2016.
For instance, compared to 2015, cocaine-related overdoes increased by 16% to 371.
Overall, there were 3,744 deaths linked to both legal and illegal drugs in 2016.
The figures were released by the Office of National Statistics. The figures mean deaths due to drug overdose is now at its highest since records began in 1993.
Interestingly, people in their 40s are now the greatest ‘at risk’ group of dying from a drug overdose. Before, people in their 30s were most at risk.
In line with previous years, two-thirds of these deaths affected men, and two-thirds of these deaths were related to drug misuse.
Of the 371 people who died due to a cocaine overdose, the vast majority were aged between 30-to-49 and were male.
Experts blame the rise in cocaine-related deaths to the increase in cocaine’s purity sold on our streets.
In these findings, the ONS said: “The National Crime Agency reports that there was a significant increase in both crack and powder cocaine purity at all levels in 2016, including user-level, which may partly explain the increase in deaths relating to cocaine.”
Many are now demanding that the Government put forward legislation to Parliament that would legalise the forensic testing of drugs at nightclubs and music events/festivals.
It is believed these tests would put many off from taking drugs in the first place, and almost certainly stop people from taking drugs that are considered too pure or otherwise toxic for human consumption.
Niamh Eastwood, a directory at the drugs charity Release, said: “They must also consider reforming the laws so that people who use drugs are not treated like criminals, this acts as a barrier to seeking help. Harm reduction initiatives are the only way we can stem the flow of young people dying.”
However, the Government has resisted this suggestion and thus refuses to consider a motion that could legalise forensic testing of drugs in venues where they are known to be consumed.
The ONS data also reveals an increase in the number of people dying from consuming a powerful synthetic opiate known as fentanyl. In 2015, 34 people died from taking fentanyl. This figure rose to 58 people in 2016. This figure is likely to continue to rise over the next few years because fentanyl’s popularity amongst drug users is unlikely to wane.
In 2016, there was also a rise in the number of deaths linked to New Psychoactive Substances (NPSs) from 114 to 123 deaths. These NPSs are designed to mimic drugs such as ecstasy, cocaine, and cannabis. These drugs were outlawed in 2016, and it is unclear whether the illegalisation of NPSs will result in a decrease in overdose linked to their use.
The biggest killer is heroin and morphine. Deaths related to these drugs remained stable between 2015-16 – there were 1,209 deaths linked to heroin and morphine in 2016, and there were 1,201 deaths linked to these drugs in 2015.
Rosanna O’Connor, of Public Health England, said: “It is tragic that we are still seeing an increase in people dying from drug misuse, particularly among older heroin users.
“Many of these deaths can be explained as the ‘Trainspotting’ generation, often with poor physical and mental health, sadly losing their battle with long-term addiction to drugs.”
If you or a loved one are affected by the issues raised in this post, you may consider attending a drug rehab clinic. Get in touch today with Rehab Recovery on 0800 088 66 86 to find out how you can access these services.