Cocaine deaths reach all-time high in England and Wales

Desiree Burns
August 7, 2018

The rise in cocaine deaths past year comes amid rising production and higher purity of the Class A drug.

Internationally, there are many instances of successful drug policy reform reducing drug deaths that the United Kingdom government could learn from.

Despite the high rate of drug-related deaths, the United Kingdom government seems set to continue its approach; pursuing a goal of society-wide abstinence from drug use, rather than the provision of harm reduction measures that reduce drug deaths.

In Scotland, drug deaths hit a record high in 2017 and were the worst in Europe, figures revealed last month.

"While America is in the grips of a massive opioid epidemic, it's unlikely this will happen to the same extent in the United Kingdom as we have much stricter prescribing controls here".

But deaths involving heroine and morphine decreased in 2017 to 1,162, the first drop since 2012.

The number of people dying in England and Wales due to the synthetic opioid fentanyl rose by 29% in 2017, Office for National Statistics data shows.

And fatalities from so-called "legal highs", such as spice, reduced by more than a half in 2017, from 123 in 2016 to 61.

But statisticians argued last year's death rate remains similar to 2016, when there were 3,744 deaths related to drug poisoning.

Deaths linked to cocaine have risen for the sixth successive year to more than 400, according to official figures published today.

Almost twice as many men die in drug-related deaths than women - 2,521 compared with 1,235.

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Two thirds of these deaths were accidental, related to drug misuse, the ONS added. Statistics show 565 people have died in drug misuse incidents in the region between 2015 and 2017.

'Unfortunately, these people are dying in their forties and fifties, decades before the average person.

'These deaths are largely preventable but would require investment in drug treatment.

"In recent years we have seen a 30% cut in the budget for addiction services".

But Mr Hamilton argued it is 'middle-aged people using heroin and diazepam that make up the majority of these deaths, .'.

"The UK government has nowhere left to hide".

The Tories have stayed committed to their war on drugs policy, despite the fact that it's not protecting people or saving lives. Instead we are seeing a disconnected, localised approach that fails to protect vulnerable people, and an overarching national strategy that primarily harms people who already marginalised.

Karen Tyrell, executive director of alcohol and drug charity Addaction, said: 'The truth is that most drug-related deaths are preventable.

'Most of them have had very hard, often traumatic lives and we're letting them down if we don't give them the best care that we can'.

'Everyone deserves help, and we know every person can recover with the right support'.

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