Drug-related deaths at an all-time high

Drug-related deaths at an all-time high

The Health and Social Care Information Centre has released new data which reveals that drug-related deaths are at their highest levels since records began in 1993.

The report shows that figures have almost tripled as the number of people dying from drug misuse has risen to 3,346 per year. Of those, 2,248 (67%) involved illegal drugs. Aside from a momentary drop in 2012, this is a figure that’s steadily rising each year.

Of the deaths, it was found that the overwhelming majority died from accidental poisoning when taking substances. This was followed by intentional poisoning and then mental or behavioural disorders caused as a direct result of using drugs.

Deaths involving heroin or morphine increased by almost two-thirds between 2012 and 2014, from 579 to 952. The number of deaths involving cocaine also increased sharply between 2013 and 2014 from 169 to 247. 

The report found that people aged between 40 and 49 have the highest mortality rate from drug misuse (88.4 deaths per million population). This was followed by the 30-39 age range which suffered 87.9 deaths per million.

Men were found to be considerably more likely to die from taking drugs as they accounted for 72% of all drug-related deaths compared to 28% of women. Speaking about the clear gender divide, mental health lecturer at the University of York, Ian Hamilton commented:

“The gender difference is interesting and has been a consistent feature in those accessing treatment as well as those unfortunately losing their lives. I suspect not having direct responsibility for children could be a factor, as for women this is both a protective factor against risky drug use and also services are more likely to respond to mothers in terms of their statutory duty to protect children.”

As well as the number of deaths increasing, hospital admissions for illegal drug poisoning is also on the rise. In 2014/15 a total of 14,279 people were admitted to hospital for drug poisoning – a 2% increase compared to the year before and a 57% increase since 2004/05. 

What’s causing the increase of drug-related deaths in the UK?

At a time when we know more about the dangers of drug abuse than ever before, it’s thought that one of the possible reasons behind the increase in the number of drug-related deaths is down to the lack of support available for addicts.

It’s also thought that another cause is the long-term impact that drug use has on the body. Amongst the heroin-related deaths more than half were over 40. It’s highly likely that long-term users are going to suffer from underlying health problems and their bodies will get weaker which can contribute towards a greater likelihood of death.  

As wholesale prices of illegal substances have fallen over the last few years, it means that the purity of both cocaine and heroin have increased. The purer and stronger a drug is, the more likely people are to overdose and this is also likely to have contributed to the new wave of heroin and crack deaths in the UK. 

If you think that you or someone you know could have a problem with drugs, please feel free to visit our Drug Addiction Treatment and Rehabilitation page for more information about the signs, symptoms and treatments that are available. Alternatively, if you would prefer to speak to someone directly, you can contact Life Works in the strictest of confidence and we will be more than happy to help. 

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