Drug deaths increase in England, Wales, study shows


More than 3,700 people in England and Wales died last year from drug poisoning, two thirds of them a result of drug misuse, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said Monday.

The number of cocaine users increased for the sixth consecutive year, while deaths caused by use of the recreational opioid pain drug Fentanyl has also increased, said ONS.

The study showed rates of drug misuse deaths were highest in the north of England and Wales, while the rate in London in 2017 was significantly lower than other English regions.

In total there were 3,756 drug poisoning deaths involving both legal and illegal drugs registered in England and Wales in 2017, similar to levels seen in 2016.

Of those who died, 2,521 were male, and 1,235 female.

Two-thirds related to drug misuse deaths, including registrations involving a prohibited drug, with people in their 40s accounting for the biggest group of fatalities.

The rate of deaths relating to drug misuse in males has fallen for the first time since 2012, added ONS.

The report also reveals that between 2012 and 2015, drug-related deaths rose by a significant amount each year, driven mostly by heroin deaths.

ONS said three quarters of deaths from drug poisoning or misuse in 2017 involved accidental poisoning, rather than mental and behavioural disorders or suicide.

Rates have only increased slightly since 2015 and stayed broadly stable. Deaths from fentanyl (an opioid painkilling drug used recreationally) continued to rise in 2017 while deaths from new psychoactive substances such as spice have halved.

ONS has also published Monday a report with an in-depth study into drug-related deaths in England based on records from coroners’ records.

It reveals the most common characteristics were that people who died from drug misuse or overdoses were most likely to be of white ethnicity, single or divorced, living alone, unemployed, and have had a prior history of drug use and /or mental health issues.

Ellie Osborn, Health Analysis Statistician at ONS, said: “The figures published today show that the level of drug poisoning deaths in 2017 remained stable.”

“Despite deaths from most opiates declining or remaining steady, deaths from fentanyl continued to rise in 2017 as did cocaine deaths which increased for the sixth consecutive year.”

Osborn said the findings from the study of coroners’ records showing common characteristics of drug-related deaths can be used to develop initiatives and policies that are targeted to support those at greatest risk of drug addiction.