Drug misuse deaths fall but still remain too high

The ONS has revealed the newest figures for drug-related deaths in England and Wales, protecting all deaths registered in 2017.

It stories that there have been 3,756 deaths final 12 months as a result of drug poisonings – the best since information started. This consists of poisonings from each authorized medicinal medication (accidents and suicides) in addition to deaths from all illicit drug misuse, which has truly seen a fall (from 2,593 to 2,503) for the primary time since 2012. The most important, and persevering with, rise is in cocaine deaths, up 16% to 432, a close to fourfold improve since 2011.

There are important variations throughout the nation, which might be defined by variations in charges of drug use and wider health inequalities.

What continues to concern us is that some areas are displaying bigger will increase lately. Drug misuse within the North East accounted for 83.2 deaths per 1M inhabitants, an additional 7% improve from 2016. This contrasts with a big fall in London by 24% to 24.6 deaths per 1M.

This weblog seems to be at a few of the report’s important findings and the actions we’re taking to sort out these points.

Reasons for high numbers of deaths

Although deaths from heroin and/or morphine have fallen a bit of, over half (53%) of all deaths associated to drug poisoning still contain an opiate.

This is probably going still as a result of an older era of long run heroin customers with failing health and better overdose dangers.

40-49 12 months olds have the best fee of drug misuse deaths but charges have fallen in all age teams besides the very oldest (50-69 and 70+), maybe additional supporting the concept of an ageing cohort at best danger of overdose loss of life.

We additionally know that round half of opiate-related deaths happen amongst those that have by no means or haven’t been in drug remedy for a number of years. People who’re in remedy and prescribed medicines are:

  • much less prone to inject medication
  • much less prone to overdose
  • much less prone to contract blood-borne viruses equivalent to HIV and hepatitis C
  • extra prone to be examined and handled, or vaccinated towards hepatitis B

These therapies can scale back hurt and supply drug customers with the soundness and security to construct their restoration. UK clinical guidelines spotlight the essential function opioid substitution therapies, like methadone and buprenorphine, have in stopping drug-related deaths.

It’s very important that drug companies do all they’ll to make their companies as accessible as potential and improve their efforts to interact these most in danger.

And native areas will need to proceed to develop their provision of naloxone to forestall opioid overdoses changing into opioid deaths, particularly if the threatened availability of additional potent opioids, like fentanyl, turns into a actuality.

Treatment centres should be versatile to rising threats


These newest figures for 2017 present a big improve in cocaine associated deaths from the 371 deaths registered in 2016 to 432. This continues an increase seen from 2011 when there have been a few quarter as many deaths.

Part of this improve might be as a result of crack use – autopsy testing can’t differentiate powder cocaine and crack cocaine so they’re reported as one. We know crack use has been rising in some areas and is commonly related to heroin customers, making customers doubly weak to dying.

Public Health England is working with the Home Office in an England-wide investigation, together with an in-depth assessment in six localities with high crack prevalence. The work will enhance our understanding of the explanations behind the rise in crack use and result in higher native responses to the issue.


These newest figures for 2017 present will increase in deaths involving the potent opioids, fentanyl and fentanyl analogues, from 58 to 75 and from 1 to 31 respectively.

Many of those will relate to overdose deaths in late 2016 and early 2017, primarily in Yorkshire and the Humber, that concerned heroin blended with fentanyl.

PHE continues to work with drug testing labs and native drug companies to get extra fast and detailed data on confirmed and suspected instances of fentanyl. And we’ve got supplied native areas with goal figures for his or her provision of naloxone, the opioid overdose antidote.

Synthetic cannabinoids

The persevering with information of issues with artificial cannabinoids (SCRAs) in sure areas of the nation is one thing we’re very involved about and we’ve got been actively supporting native areas and nationwide authorities.

Deaths involving new psychoactive substances (NPS) are very low in contrast with heroin (1.0 deaths per 1M inhabitants in contrast with 20.5 per 1M respectively) they usually halved in 2017, from 123 to 61, following the introduction of the Psychoactive Substances Act. However, the principle falls had been in deaths involving the cathinone stimulants and different NPS – SCRAs at the moment are concerned in a single third of all NPS deaths.

Reducing the harms brought on by NPS and new patterns of drug use will remain a precedence. Our pilot drug health harms intelligence system, RIDR, helps frontline employees higher perceive the harms of latest substances and be capable of reply and deal with sufferers extra quickly.


An rising variety of deaths contain some prescription and over-the-counter medicines, like codeine, antidepressants and pregabalin. Some could also be the results of misuse and of suicide but PHE’s prescribed medicines review will assist us perceive how prescribing could also be contributing to the supply of those medicines and to unintended overdoses.


Despite latest stories of elevated ecstasy use and better pill strengths, reported deaths from ecstasy fell barely for the primary time since 2010.  Widespread publicity on high-strength ecstasy tablets and safer drug use messages could also be a contributing issue.

In abstract, whereas reported deaths from illicit medication have fallen for the primary time in 5 years, numbers remain far too high.  Continued easy accessibility to drug remedy, proactive concentrating on of these most liable to hurt and an enlargement of naloxone provision is important in addressing drug associated deaths.

Support should additionally transcend remedy companies to handle the broader circumstances of these most in danger. In final 12 months’s drug technique, the Government dedicated to the drug misuse prevention and remedy agenda and, if we’re to finish the avoidable and tragic waste of lives, native authorities should proceed to put money into these areas.


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