The UK is seeing a rise in women addicted to drugs.The number of female deaths related to drug abuse, poisoning or addiction is rising in both England and Wales.
A new report from the Office of National Statistics shows that in 2011 there were 1,772 male deaths related to drugs and 880 female deaths. While this is a 6% year on year decrease for men, the number of drug related deaths for women rose 3%.
Part of this increase may be attributed to a rise in the number of women using drugs to commit suicide. In 2011, the number of women committing suicide using drugs increased by 7% with 418 deaths.
Another problem is the use of dangerous drugs. The survey identified heroin and morphine as some of the most deadly substances. Together they accounted for 57% of deaths from drug poisoning. While use of heroin in men has fallen by 39% since 2009, there has not been a significant change in the number of female users since 1997. Some people believe this could be linked to the fact that many male drug addicts refuse to allow their addicted partners access to treatment or methadone.
Along with a rise in female addicts, comes an increase in the number of methadone deaths.
Initially, methadone was seen as a treatment for opiate addiction but the latest numbers show it could be doing more harm than good. The number of men who died from methadone in England and Whales rose by over one third and is at its highest level since 1997. 486 deaths have been linked to methadone.
The ONS said: "The increase in deaths involving methadone correlates with findings from the British Crime Survey showing the proportion of 16- to 59-year-olds using methadone in the last year increased significantly in 2010/11.
The survey also indicated that the UK was in a “heroin drought” which means drugs bought on the street are less potent.
This is a major concern for the authors of the report who wrote, "Drugs workers were concerned that the heroin drought may result in more drug-related deaths, as users who had developed a reduced tolerance could overdose if they used a high quality batch of heroin. However, ONS data show the opposite trend with deaths involving heroin falling in recent years."
While heroin deaths fall, methadone dependency is on the rise. The ONS said, “the latest Druglink Street Drug Trends Survey found there had been an increase in the use of methadone (and other substances) by primary heroin users, possibly as a result of the heroin drought."
This made methadone the number one substance involved in drug deaths in Scotland during 2011.
Many methadone critics point to the fact that methadone is very addictive and some people believe it could even be more habit forming than heroin. There is also no treatment process for many methadone users, it simply replaces heroin. While this may be cheaper and better regulated than heroin, it means most injection drug users simply remain on methadone forever without actually ridding themselves of their addiction.