Drug poisoning admissions increase 40% in a decade

The number of drug poisoning cases handled by hospitals in England has jumped by more than a third in a decade, new figures show.

There were 14,053 admissions where the primary diagnosis was poisoning by illicit drugs in 2016/17.

This was down by 7% on the previous 12 months but the figure represents a 40% increase compared with 2006/07.

The number of admissions was highest in the 25 to 34 age range, with 3,232 in 2016/17, while 776 were aged under 16 and more than 2,000 were at least 55.

Admissions do not represent the number of in-patients, as a person may have more than one admission within the year.

Data from NHS Digital also showed that hospital admissions for drug-related mental health and behavioural disorders fell by 12% from 8,621 in 2015/16 to 7,545 in 2016/17.

However, the number of such cases is still more than a 10th higher than in 2006/07.

The findings chime with statistics published last year showing drug misuse deaths at record levels in England and Wales.

In 2016 there were 2,593 registered deaths in England and Wales related to drug misuse, the highest level since comparable records started in 1993.

A rise in the purity of cocaine was identified as one possible explanation for the trend.

Long-term rises in hospital admissions and deaths are set against a backdrop of falls in the overall prevalence of illegal drug use.

In 2016/17 around one in 12 adults (8.5%) aged 16 to 59 in England and Wales had taken an illicit drug in the last year.

This was similar to the level in the previous year but significantly lower than in 2006/07, when the percentage stood at 10.1%.

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