DRUG-RELATED DEATHS: A DIFFERENT WAY OF COUNTING MEANS NO COMPARISONS CAN BE MADE TO THE PAST
“Figures quoted in the [November 2012] Addiction Today article, The NTA annual report dossier, give the impression that drug-related deaths increased significantly over the last decade. In fact, deaths due to drug misuse in England declined, from 1,510 in 2000 to 1,460 in 2011,” the National Treatment Agency for Substance Misuse argues in the free page this charity has given it in our January issue of Addiction Today journal (page 14; the charity has given the NTA a free page for many years now).
As AT highlighted years ago, drug-related deaths rose since the NTA was formed in 2001, despite reducing these being its major raison d’etre. The NTA did not rebut anything else in the article, and is disingenuous here: it knows that drug deaths were counted in a different way in 2011 so comparisons cannot be made with earlier years.
“In January 2011, ONS introduced a new version of ICD-10, which replaced that introduced in 2001. This means that figures for 2011 will not be directly comparable with figures for 2001-2010,” the Office for National Statistics clearly states in Deaths Related to Drug Poisoning in England and Wales 2011.
The ONS is also clear that drug-related deaths for 2011 would be recorded as higher if the 2001 model were used. In ICD-10 v2001, if accidental poisoning by drugs and drug dependence were both on a death certificate, the dependence would be recorded as the cause of the accidental poisoning – in ICD-10 v2010, accidental poisoning not drug dependence is recorded.
Indeed, deaths coded as mental and behavioural disorders due to drug use fell by 84 % in v2010, merely by using this new model.