2017 Drug Misuse Death Figures

Figures released on the 6th August 2018 by the Office for National Statistics reveal that deaths related to drug misuse in England have fallen, with 2,310 deaths in 2017, compared with 2,386 in 2016 (via Collective Response). EDP are pleased that services like ours nationwide are working hard to prevent these figures rising. However, like Collective Response, we too are aware that these figures only represent overdose deaths, and in reality, even more people are dying from health conditions that have been caused by many years of drug misuse.

Below are some of the main points from the report:

“The male mortality rate decreased from 91.4 deaths per 1 million population in 2016 to 89.6 in 2017, while the female rate increased for the eighth consecutive year to 42.9 deaths per 1 million population” 

The ONS report demonstrates that the rate of male deaths decreased for the first time since 2017. This is a positive reflection of nationwide efforts. In contrast, the rate of female deaths increased for the eighth consecutive year. This statistic suggests that greater work needs to be done in understanding why women misuse substances. Therefore, it is important that women continue to be a key focus of EDP’s services.

“The North East had a significantly higher rate of deaths relating to drug-misuse than all other English regions”

The report identifies that discrepancies between the North and South are still significant. For example, the North East of England reported a rate of 82.7 deaths per 1 million of the population, yet London, in contrast, reported a rate of 24.3. More specifically, the South West region reported 42.9 deaths per million persons, slightly less than the East and West average of 43.9. The South West represents the highest figure in the South and the fifth highest overall in England and Wales, which suggests that improvements are necessary. We hope that our community alcohol and drugs services REACH (formed November 2017) and Together will help to make a positive impact on future reports.

“Deaths involving cocaine and fentanyl continued to rise while deaths related to new psychoactive substances halved in 2017”

Although deaths involving heroin and morphine decreased for the first time since 2012, deaths from fentanyl have increased by 29%. It is thought that this could be as a result of mixing the drug with heroin due to its cheaper cost and higher potency, leading to accidental overdose. On the other hand, the number of deaths reported as a result of cocaine rose from 371 (2016) to 432 (2017). ONS states that the increased prevalence and purity of cocaine could be the reason for this. Moreover, deaths from new psychoactive substances have halved, perhaps as a response to the Psychoactive Substances Act (2016). Furthermore, Collective Response believes that the increase in cocaine use and associated harms could be an unintended consequence of the Act.

The ONS report demonstrates that the types of drugs used are varied. Thus at EDP we believe that it is important to ensure that our drug services offer widespread support regardless of a person’s drug of choice, including one-to-one advice and counselling to the provision of prescriptions where necessary.

This ONS report offers encouraging news for the future of drug support services. At EDP, we will continue working alongside our partners to help anyone who requires support to live a more fulfilling life following drug and alcohol misuse. Therefore, we aim to deliver high quality services, from counselling and prescriptions to music therapy and yoga, across both Devon and Dorset to all that need them.

Read the Collective Voice response here.

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