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Scottish Charity Register No. SC043760

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English drug deaths rise

October 06 2014
Drug charities have “serious concerns” following reports that heroin and morphine deaths  rose by almost a third ast year

Drug charities have expressed “serious concerns” following reports that drug poisoning deaths involving heroin and morphine rose by almost a third in England last year.

According to the latest official statistics, 765 deaths involving heroin or morphine were reported in England and Wales during 2013, a rise of 32 per cent from 579 deaths in 2012.

Deaths from other drugs also rose, with a total of 3,000 people killed by legal and illegal drugs.

The number of men killed by illegal drugs was most stark, rising by 23 per cent from 1,177 in 2012 to 1,444 in 2013. The number of women who died rose 12 per cent, from 459 in 2012 to 513 in 2013.

Most of the increase in the number of deaths occurred in England, with little change to the number of drug-related deaths in Wales. However, death rates from drug misuse are still significantly higher in Wales than in England.

The upward trend is in contrast to Scotland, which saw deaths fall by nine per cent over the same period.

In England, the North East had the highest mortality rate from drug misuse in 2013 (52.0 deaths per million population), and London had the lowest (23.0 deaths per million population).

The charity DrugScope expressed “serious concerns” over the figures, which marked a “reversal of the recent downward trend and appear to show the sharpest increase since the early 1990s”.

“Of course, this is about more than just numbers; each death represents a tragedy for the individual concerned, their family and friends,” DrugScope chief executive Marcus Roberts added.

Roberts said that the lack of contextual information made it difficult to know why the increase had taken place. He called for research to improve understanding of how different approaches to drug treatment affect the risk of dying, and to evaluate the support currently offered to addicts.

The charity also urged the government to review the timetable for its proposed roll-out of
Naloxone provision, allowing drug users easier access to this medicine which counteracts heroin overdoses.

The roll-out is currently scheduled for October 2015 at the earliest, but Drugscope called on the government to bring the launch forward so that “this life-saving medication can be used as soon as possible, to prevent more people from dying”.

According to recent research by Homeless Link, 36 per cent of homeless people had taken drugs in the last six months.