Drug-related deaths in North Herts reach record high

Crack Cocaine

Crack Cocaine - Credit: Archant

Drug-related deaths in North Herts have reached a record high over the last three years, figures reveal.

The Transform Drug Policy Foundation has called deaths from illegal drug use an avoidable tragedy, and accused the government of "decimating treatment funding".

The Office for National Statistics provides local data on deaths related to drug poisoning for three-year periods, which is updated annually.

North Herts saw 19 deaths between 2016 and 2018 - the most since records began in 2001-03.

It means 4.8 per 100,000 people died in this way in the last three years.

The deaths relate to poisoning from a variety of illegal and legal drugs, including prescription and over-the-counter medicines.

The figures count deaths from drug abuse but also include those from accidents, suicides, and health complications arising from drug use.

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In North Herts 13 deaths were down to misuse, meaning they involved illegal drugs, or were as a result of drug abuse or dependence.

Across England and Wales, 4,359 deaths from drug poisoning were recorded in 2018 - two-thirds of these resulted from misuse.

It represents the highest total since comparable records began in 1993.

Shirley Cramer, chief executive of the Royal Society for Public Health, said the figures are "predictable and avoidable as they are tragic", and has called for drug use to be treated as a public health issue.

"The case for a more compassionate harm reduction approach has now been clear for years," she added.

"And yet the government has continued to lead with tough rhetoric around law enforcement, all the while presiding over sustained cuts to local authority budgets, undermining their ability to deliver effective drug treatment services."

Dr James Nicholls, chief executive of the Transform Drug Policy Foundation, said:"These deaths are an avoidable tragedy - and each one represents a brother, sister, parent or friend who has left loved ones behind.

"After six years of record deaths, the government must act, with a clear focus on keeping people alive."

A government spokesperson said it has commissioned an independent review to look at issues including the system of support and enforcement around drug misuse.