Government policy 'fuels near record drug deaths'

By agency reporter
August 6, 2018

The Office of National Statistics (ONS) has released the latest drug related death statistics for England and Wales. 

At 2,503, illegal drug-related deaths have now been at, or near, record levels for five years in a row. (Statistically no significant change from 2016’s 2596). The ONS defines accidental drug related deaths as avoidable.

  • 2503 deaths per annum = seven a day, 48 a week, 209 a month – more than road deaths
  • At 43.9 deaths per million of the population, England and Wales’ drug death rate is now over 11 times that of Portugal, at 3.86 deaths per million, and more than double the European average (20.3 per million)
  • Cocaine deaths rose for the sixth year in a row to a new record 432 in 2017 (371 in 2016).
  • Fentanyl deaths increased by 29 per cent to a record 75 in 2017 (58 in 2016).
  • Deaths from Ecstasy fell slightly but not significantly, to 56 (63 in 2016).

Martin Powell, of Transform Drug Policy Foundation said, “After five years of record or near record drug related deaths, the UK Government has nowhere left to hide. They are responsible for vulnerable people dying in droves, because they are blocking, or refusing to fund, measures proven to save lives in other countries. No one has ever died from an overdose in a supervised drug consumption room or heroin prescribing clinic, anywhere. In Portugal – where drug use is decriminalised – the drug death rate is less than a tenth of ours. So Government claims that these deaths are all the result of an aging population of drug users is a lie.

"The Government must fully fund drug treatment, stop criminalising people who use drugs, and allow supervised drug consumption rooms now. Longer term, all political parties should back legal regulation of the drug market to take it out of the hands of criminals, save lives, reduce crime, and protect our communities.”

Rose Humphries of the Anyone’s Child Project, who lost two sons to heroin overdoses said: "It upsets me to see the figures for drug deaths at record levels year after year. The government is complicit in these deaths because it will not try the successful measures that work in other countries to reduce drug deaths and crime. Those of us in the Anyone's Child campaign can see the evidence of what works – including legally regulating drugs. Why can't the government? Behind each figure in these latest statistics was a real person, a person who once had hopes and dreams – as did my two sons who were killed by illegal heroin – but they are treated as collateral damage in the government's drug policies. I am so sad for all the families who are left in grief."

* The ONS 2017 UK drug related deaths statistics are available here

* Transform Drug Policy Foundation is a UK and Mexico based think tank campaigning for the legal regulation of drugs


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