13 people a DAY died from drugs last year with cocaine the biggest cause

Record-breaking drug related deaths were recorded last year according to the Office of National Statistics with cocaine deaths rising for the tenth year in a row.

Wednesday, 3rd August 2022, 1:22 pm
Updated Wednesday, 3rd August 2022, 1:22 pm

The figures, released today, show that in 2021, 4,859 deaths related to drug poisoning were registered in England and Wales, equivalent to 13 drug deaths per day last year.

The drug death toll in 2021 is 6.2 per cent higher than the rate recorded in 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic, with experts warning the figures from last year are painting a “horrifyingly ugly truth”.

Of those that lost their lives to drugs last year, 3,060 were identified as being directly attributed to drug misuse, accounting for 53.2 deaths per million people.

4,859 deaths related to drug poisoning were registered in England and Wales, equivalent to 13 drug deaths per day last year

Drug misuse deaths are the highest among those born in the 1970s, known as “Generation X” with the highest rate being those aged just 45-49.

The report reveals that almost half - 2,219- of all drug related deaths involved an opiate, Heroin and Morphine being the most prevalent, but the biggest rise comes with cocaine related deaths.

840 deaths in 2021 involved cocaine, which is 8.1 per cent more than in 2020 (777 deaths) and more than seven times the amount recorded a decade ago (112 deaths). Males accounted for the vast majority of cocaine related deaths (76.8 per cent - 645 males compared with 195 females).

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Nuno Albuquerque, Treatment Lead for the drug addiction treatment providers at the UK Addiction Treatment Group

The rise in cocaine related deaths is being attributed to the rising prevalence of pure cocaine being sold at incredibly low prices across the whole of Europe.

Nuno Albuquerque, Treatment Lead for the drug addiction treatment providers at the UK Addiction Treatment Group comments;

"What this report clearly shows is that those who have been in a drug addiction for a long time, those known as Generation 'X', typically aged between 40 and 50, are now also experimenting with taking other substances alongside Heroin like Benzodiazepines and Gabapentinoids, which coupled with a long-term history of drug use makes the user increasingly susceptible to a fatal overdose.

"Something has to change. Once again we've lost thousands of lives to drugs, this latest report revealing that 13 lives a DAY were lost to drugs last year. These are unnecessary deaths, these are lives that can be saved with the right kind of help, empathy and professional support. Unfortunately these are things that our Government isn't forthcoming with."

Deaths involving new psychoactive substances are the highest recorded, with 258 registered in 2021, a staggering 88.3% higher than the previous year (137 deaths). The ONS report this rise was driven by an increase in the number of deaths involving benzodiazepine analogues (primarily flubromazolam and etizolam) from 62 deaths in 2020 to 171 deaths in 2021.

Benzodiazepine deaths are also rising, by 13 per cent compared with 2020, from 476 to 538. Deaths from pregabalin and gabapentin, typically prescribed by the GP for things like anxiety and seizure prevention, have risen by 18.9 per cent and 12.7 per cent respectively.

Regionally, the North East continues to have the highest rate of deaths relating to drug poisoning and drug misuse (163.4 deaths per million people and 104.1 per million respectively) and London had the lowest rate for drug poisonings (47.6 deaths per million people) and the East of England had the lowest rate for drug misuse (27.4 per million).

In these confusing and worrying times, local journalism is more vital than ever. Thanks to everyone who helps us ask the questions that matter by taking out a subscription or buying a paper. We stand together. Dominic Brown, editor.