Drug-related deaths on the rise across North Herts and surrounding areas
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Drug-related deaths have risen across North Herts, Stevenage and the surrounding districts over the last three years, reflecting a national rise in fatalities over the period.
Charities have said that most deaths from substance abuse are avoidable, and warned that drug abusers need better care to help deal with underlying health conditions.
New figures released by the Office for National Statistics provide local data for drug-related deaths in three-year periods.
Between 2015 and 2017, 12 drug poisoning fatalities were registered in North Hertfordshire, at a rate of 2.9 in every 100,000 people. Of those deaths, 11 were men and one were women. This marks a rise from nine drug-related deaths recorded in North Herts between 2012 and 2014.
In Stevenage between 2015 and 2017, there were eight drug-poisoning deaths registered – five men and three women – compared to four between 2012 and 2014.
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Central Bedfordshire saw 31 drug-poisoning deaths between 2015 and 2017 – 22 men and nine women – in a rise from 22 in total over the previous three years.
In South Cambridgeshire there were 17 drug-related deaths between 2015 and 2017, of whom 13 were men and four women. This was a rise from eight in all between 2012 and 2014.
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Across England and Wales, 3,756 deaths involving legal and illegal drugs were recorded in 2017. This represents a small increase on 2016, and is the highest total since comparable records began in 1993.
ONS health analysis statistician Ellie Osborn said: “The figures published show that the level of drug poisoning deaths in 2017 remained stable.
“However, despite deaths from most opiates declining or remaining steady, deaths from fentanyl continued to rise, as did cocaine deaths, which increased for the sixth consecutive year.”
Of the 31 drug poisoning deaths in Central Bedfordshire between 2015 and 2017, 71 per cent were registered as being down to misuse, meaning they involved illegal drugs or were as a result of drug abuse or dependence.
The equivalent figure for North Herts was 67 per cent, while in Stevenage it was 88 per cent. In South Cambs it was 59 per cent.
Information on the type of drugs recorded as being a factor in deaths is not released for the local authorities.
But figures for the whole of England and Wales show that heroin and morphine were the most common drugs in drug-related deaths. They were registered in 1,164 deaths in 2017.
This is down on 2016, and the first year-on-year drop since 2012.
Antidepressants, which were a factor in 484 deaths, were the next biggest killer. There were 432 cocaine-related deaths, nearly four times the level in 2011.
Karen Tyrell, executive director of alcohol and drug charity Addaction, said: “The truth is that most drug-related deaths are preventable.
“People who use opioids often have cumulative physical and mental health problems.
“Most of them have had very difficult, often traumatic lives and we’re letting them down if we don’t give them the best care that we can.
“Nobody wakes up in the morning and decides to become dependent on drugs.
“Everyone deserves help, and we know that every person can recover with the right support.”