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Reduction in the number of Drug-Related Deaths

The National Programme on Substance Abuse Deaths (np-SAD) based at the International Centre for Drug Policy, St George’s, University of London, has found that there has been a decline in the number of drug-related deaths occurring, from 1,472 in 2004 to 1,382 in 2005, a drop of about six per cent over the number recorded by the same sources.

The report published on the 5th October contains information on drug-related deaths for the year 2005 reported by Coroners in England & Wales and the Islands (Guernsey, Jersey and Isle of Man). Information on such deaths recorded by the Scottish Crime and Drug Enforcement Agency and the General Register Office for Northern Ireland is also given; these sources also indicate a decrease in 2005.

The main findings are:
The majority of deaths were of males (74 per cent)
73 per cent of all deaths were under the age of 45 years.
59 per cent of cases died from accidental poisoning. This is a three percent increase compared with the previous year. Undetermined poisonings rose by about two percent to 14 percent. However, the proportion of intentional self-poisoning cases fell by 3 percent to 16 percent.

Opiates/opioids (i.e. heroin/morphine; methadone; other opiate/opioid analgesics), alone or in combination with other drugs, accounted for the majority of fatalities (70 per cent) in 2005. There was an increase of one per cent (to 49%) in the proportion of deaths involving heroin/morphine. The proportion of cases involving cocaine increased from 10% to 13%. A decrease of about two percentage points in the proportion of cases involving hypnotics/sedatives (i.e. diazepam) was observed. The proportions of deaths involving other illicit drugs remained stable.

Brighton & Hove recorded the highest annual drug-related death rate per 100,000 population (24.2), followed by Dumbarton (13.4); Blackpool & the Fylde (12.8); Isle of Man (11.3); East Lancashire (10.0); Liverpool (9.4); Southampton & New Forest (8.7); and Neath Port Talbot (8.2). Of these eight areas, only the Isle of Man showed a significant increase over 2004 (up from 1.6). Compared with 2004, the following areas reported a notable reduction in deaths amongst those aged 16 and over, than in the previous year: in Liverpool there were 57 deaths in 2004, which reduced to 34 in 2005; Jersey had a reduction from 9 in 2004 to 3 in 2005.

The following areas reported higher number of deaths among those aged 16 and over, than in the previous year: Torbay & South Devon reported an increase from 1 death in 2004 to 9 deaths in 2005; Ceredigion saw an increase from zero to 5; the number of deaths in Cheltenham rose from 2 in 2004 to 10 in 2005; in the Black Country the number doubled from 5 to 10 deaths; in Surrey there were 12 deaths in 2005, compared to 7 in 2004; Exeter & Greater Devon experienced an increase from 30 to 42 deaths.

In commenting on the above data, Professor Hamid Ghodse, Director of the International Centre for Drug Policy, St George’s, University of London, said: “The findings of this report indicate an overall decrease in drug-related deaths in the UK. This is excellent news and could well be the result of both the drug misuse monitoring and prevention initiatives promoted and carried out in the last few years. We hope that this trend will continue. However, following the rise in drug-related deaths in 2004, there is the need for continued vigilance and constant monitoring of the drug-related deaths situation to ensure that the trend continues to decline and lives are saved. I would like to thank the Department of Health for their support for this very important Programme”.

Professor Michael Farthing, Principal of St George’s Medical School and Pro-Vice- Chancellor for Medicine at the University of London, commented: “The mission of St George’s and its Centres of Excellence such as the ICDP is to promote — by excellence in teaching, clinical practice and research — the prevention, treatment and understanding of disease. Drug abuse and addiction contribute a great deal of misery to the lives of individuals, families and society as a whole. In order to prevent this phenomenon, it is of paramount importance to include the issue of tackling substance abuse in the education of the medical, nursing and caring professions as well as that of the public. The provision of informed analysis, such as that published today by the National Programme on Substance Abuse Deaths, assists these groups in the reduction of morbidity and mortality related to drugs".

Andrea Vazquez | alfa
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