Drug deaths in England and Wales highest since records began as Doncaster fatalities rise

The number of drug deaths recorded in England and Wales last year was the highest since records began, with numbers in Doncaster also on the rise.

In total, 4,561 deaths related to drug poisoning were registered - equivalent to a rate of 79.5 per million people – the highest figure since records began in 1993.

Office for National Statistics figures show there were 39 drug-related deaths in Doncaster in the latest available data.

The deaths relate to poisoning from a variety of illegal and legal drugs, including prescription and over-the-counter medicines.

Drug deaths are on the rise in Doncaster.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) said about half of these would have occurred in 2019, because of delays in registering deaths.

The majority will have occurred before the pandemic, it added.

The latest figures, which are published annually, show stark differences between men and women, and among different regions.

There were more than twice as many deaths among men as there were among women.

The highest rate of deaths relating to drug misuse was in the North East of England, where 104.6 deaths were recorded per million people, and the lowest was in London, where that figure was 33.1.

In terms of age, the highest rate was among people aged 45-49.

The total death toll is 3.8% higher than the figure for 2019, when 4,393 deaths were recorded.

The ONS suggested the increase could possibly be down to an ageing cohort of drug users suffering from the effects of long-term use, as well as new trends in taking certain drugs - including gabapentinoids and benzodiazepines - at the same time as heroin or morphine.

Of the total deaths registered in 2020, 2,263 - around half - involved an opiate.

And 777 of the deaths involved cocaine - a rise of about 10% on 2019, and more than quadruple the number recorded in 2010.

Eytan Alexander, recovering drug-addict and CEO for the drug addiction treatment experts UKAT commented: "It's saddening but unsurprising to see that the number of drug poisoning deaths has increased yet again, and especially unsurprising to see such a rise in cocaine-related deaths last year given that it is so readily available and as easy to order as a Deliveroo.

“Like in 2019, in 2020 the vast majority - two thirds - of deaths were related to drug misuse, meaning that the underlying cause of death was drug dependence. These people are the ones that have been suffering with a drug addiction and have been ignored for too long.

"We must remember that today's report is about mothers, fathers, grandparents, neighbours and friends who have died because of drugs. They have lost their lives in a year where everything other than the pandemic was swept to one side and put on hold.

"We're living in a parallel pandemic; a drug, alcohol and mental health pandemic that has only worsened due to the virus. Enough is enough now, we need to come together as a society and take real action to help vulnerable people before more people lose their lives."

Help, information and support for drug misuse can be found at www.ukat.co.uk/drugs/v58/