Charities have criticised the government over a lack of action on drug deaths across England and Wales – which have reached another record high – with experts calling the latest figures an ‘utter disgrace’.
They were among 4,859 drug poisoning deaths registered across England and Wales last year – the ninth consecutive rise and the highest number since records began more than a quarter of a century ago in 1993.
The figures cover drug abuse and dependence, fatal accidents, suicides and complications involving controlled and non-controlled drugs, prescription and over-the-counter medications.
Of the drug deaths recorded nationally last year, 3,060 (63 per cent) were due to misuse, meaning they involved illegal drugs, or were a result of drug abuse or dependence – including 24 in Portsmouth.
Niamh Eastwood, executive director of Release, the national centre for drugs expertise, said every drug-related death is avoidable.
‘It is an utter disgrace that we are again talking about record breaking drug deaths,’ she added.
‘Drug deaths are a public health emergency across the UK that can and must be adequately addressed. Government inaction is a political choice.’
The ONS said the overall rising trend over the past decade has been driven primarily by deaths involving opiates, but also those involving other substances such as cocaine.
Just under half of the drug deaths registered across England and Wales last year involved an opiate.