COMMENT: Prevention is the only way to stop more  drug deaths

If you’ve ever wondered about the extent of the drug problem in Portsmouth, the latest figures released by the ONS will bring the scale of the issue into stark focus. 

Over the past 10 years the number of deaths from drug misuse has doubled – from 23 in 2006-08, to 52 in 2016-2017. 

The situation is so dire that eight pharmacies have been issued with Naloxone, an emergency antidote for overdoses caused by opiates and opioids such as heroin, morphine and fentanyl, which can bring someone around long enough for the paramedics to arrive.

Portsmouth City Council, which issued 400 kits, expects people to overdose. 

How has it come to this? 

Again and again, politicians have called for action to prevent these deaths but they are on the rise.

 Although deaths overall across the city, Gosport, Havant and Fareham are down slightly from two years ago, they have more than doubled from 61 to 156 in just under 10 years.

And with these deaths come broken families, already fractured by seeing a loved-one spiral out of control as drug addiction slowly claims them. 

One of the major reasons for the increase in deaths is the age of Portsmouth’s drug users.

They are getting older, have long-term habits, and are weakened from conditions such as Hepatitis C, caught from infected needles. Mental illness, homelessness, and family breakdown add to the complexity of trying to get to the root of addictions. 

The latest steps taken by the city council and Public Health England are yet to take effect. 

But can they do more to stop people dying? Every one of those people who make up the bleak statistics is someone’s son, daughter, mother, brother. 

We must get to the root of social problems that cause people to turn to drugs, by preventing addiction in the first place.