Drug deaths hit all time high as fatal cocaine use increases 8th year running

Drug deaths have hit an all time high as deaths related to substance abuse hit a record high for the eighth year in a row.

In 2019, 4,393 deaths related to drug poisoning were registered in England and Wales, according to data collated by the Office for National Statistics today.

Although this was a small rise from the previous year where 4,359 deaths were reported, it is still the highest number of drug-related deaths ever recorded.

Deaths related to drug poisoning began to be recorded in 1993.

Two-thirds (or 2,883) of registered drug poisoning deaths were related to drug misuse. That number was down slightly from 2,917 in 2018.

The number of deaths related to drug poisoning was equivalent to an age-standardised mortality rate of 76.7 deaths per million people.

Among men, there were 104.7 drug poisoning deaths registered per million in 2019 (2,968 deaths), while the rate for women was 49.1 deaths per million (1,425 deaths).

Drug misuse accounts for 70.2% of male and 56.1% of female drug poisonings.

Rates for deaths involving specific drugs haven’t risen significantly since last year.

However, deaths involving cocaine increased for the eighth successive year, by 7.7% for male deaths and by 26.5% for female deaths.

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The North East had a statistically significantly higher rate of deaths relating to drug misuse than all other English regions (95.0 deaths per million people).

East of England had the lowest rate (33.6 deaths per million people).

New analysis by deprivation shows that, in the last decade, rates of drug poisoning deaths have been higher in the most deprived areas of England and Wales compared with the least; this is particularly the case among those aged in their forties where rates reach peaks that are at least 5.5 times higher in the most deprived areas.

Figures continue to show that the age at which most people died from drug misuse has increased over time.

For the first decade of the data, 20- to 29-year-olds had the highest rates (between 1993 and 2002), 30- to 39-year-olds then had the highest rates between 2003 and 2015, and more recently 40- to 49-year-olds have had the highest rates.

The ONS said it is possible that the pattern of findings by age shows that a generation of people born in the 1960s and 1970s, known as Generation X, have died from drug misuse in greater numbers over time; such has been observed when looking at deaths caused by drug poisoning overall.

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