DRUG DEATHS RISE AGAIN
HEROIN IS BIGGEST KILLER – FOLLOWED BY METHADONE
Click here for related article on previous years' figures.
UK drug-related deaths rose by 11.8% to 2,182 in a year, reveals the International Centre for Drug Policy at St George’s, University of London, National Programme on Substance Abuse Deaths report. The previous year, it rose 2.7%.
The report – which covers drug-related deaths in 2009 – shows that most of the deaths (1,698 – 77.8%) were men, and most deaths (1,415 – 64.8%) were people aged 25-44.
“This continuing rise in drug-related deaths is very concerning and shows that we must not waver in our efforts to prevent the loss of life. The effectiveness of both drug abuse prevention and treatment is reflected in the mortality data, so we know we still have a major problem," ICDP director Professor Hamid Ghodse said.
“An immediate impact in reducing drug-related deaths could be achieved by improving the availability of effective treatment and rehabilitation services. However, in the long run, finding primary prevention strategies that work may be crucial if we want to have a major effect on drug-related mortality.
“Each of these deaths is a life wasted, and a family bereaved. Drug abuse is one of the most important social issues of our time, as illicit drugs kill people and destroy families.”
It coincides with another report on drug-related poisoning deaths registered – but not necessarily occurring – in 2009 for England and Wales, unveiled today by the Office for National Statistics. The two reports complement each other, providing a comprehensive description of the extent and nature of deaths caused by drug dependency and misuse.
They are compiled using different geographical and chronological criteria, so show differing results. But this year’s 11th annual np-SAD is the most comprehensive yet, and contains full breakdowns for each UK constituent country as well as the islands. It also follows recent drug death figures from Scotland – released by the General Register Office for Scotland, and again compiled using different parameters – showing a slight reduction in deaths.
Opiates such as heroin, morphine, methadone and opiate analgesics were implicated in most of the deaths, as in previous years. Heroin and morphine alone and with other drugs accounted for 52.9% of deaths. Methadone deaths rose to 23%. Meanwhile, the ONS stated that heroin and morphine deaths in England and Wales (880) were down by 2%, but methadone deaths (408) were up by 8%.
There has been a decline in deaths from stimulants such as cocaine (now 11.4%), amphetamines (2.8%) and ecstasy-type drugs (0.3%). This could be due to increasing use of ‘legal highs’, such as ketamine, piperazines and GHB/GBL, in recent years.
As well as the reports on 2009 deaths, the np-SAD also outlines details of emerging new drugs such as the recently banned mephedrone. Until the end of July 2010, there had been 52 suspected mephedrone-related deaths, although confirmation of most of these is needed.
In addition to the np-SAD report, the ICDP at St George’s today released its annual Volatile Substance Mortality Project report. This includes figures on deaths related to volatile substances – gas, aerosols, glues and other solvents – in 2008. In 2008, there were 36 deaths, down from 59 in 2007.
The report shows a large increase in deaths attributed to helium – although, as an inert gas, it is not strictly a volatile substance. In 2008, there were 25 helium-related deaths, an increase from 10 the previous year.
Click below for details of the ICDP report
Drug-related deaths in the UK Annual Report 2010.
Click below for details of the ONS report
Deaths related to drug poisoning in England and Wales, 2009.