Drug-related deaths in England and Wales reach record high

Drug-related deaths in England and Wales are the highest they have been since records began more than a quarter of a century ago, official figures show.

There were 4,359 deaths from drug poisoning recorded in England and Wales in 2018 – the highest number since records began in 1993, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said.

The official body said it was also the highest annual increase since records began, rising 16% (603 deaths) from 2017.

Deaths involving cocaine doubled over the three years to 2018, reaching their highest ever level.

Ben Humberstone, deputy director for health analysis and life events at the ONS, said: “The number of deaths from drug use in 2018 was the highest since our records began in 1993. We have also seen the biggest year-on-year percentage increase.

“Previously, this had been linked to a rise in deaths related to opiates like heroin and morphine, but last year there were also increases in deaths across a wider variety of substances including cocaine and what had been known as ‘legal highs’.

“We produce these figures to help inform decision makers working towards protecting those at risk of dying from drug poisoning.”

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