Drug related deaths: Public Health England update

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“In recognition of International Overdose Awareness Day, Public Health England’s (PHE) London Alcohol, Drugs and Tobacco team is taking this opportunity to share some data, resources and guidance to support stakeholders in considering further actions to tackle Drug Related Deaths (DRDs) at a local level.

DRDs have been increasing nationally in recent years and London has also seen a large increase in the number of DRDs since 2012. Although the latest 2017 Office of National Statistics data shows that deaths have decreased this year in London compared to 2016, (215 in 2017, from 284 in 2016), more work is required to bring down the number of preventable deaths.

Nationally, heroin related deaths continue to make up the largest proportion of DRDs. Around half of all heroin deaths are among people not in treatment. Cocaine deaths have continued to rise since 2011, with another increase from 371 in 2016 to 432 in 2017. This figure includes deaths from crack cocaine and echoes the story seen elsewhere of increasing cocaine and crack availability, purity and use. Deaths from new psychoactive substances (NPS) in 2017 halved compared to the previous year, from 123 to 61, following the successful introduction of the Psychoactive Substances Act. Deaths where synthetic cannabinoids were mentioned on the death certificate were again the largest category of NPS and made up nearly half of these (24 of the 61).

Nationally, fentanyl and fentanyl-analogue related deaths have increased from 58 to 75 and 1 to 31 respectively in the latest published statistics. Many of these deaths relate to an incident of heroin adulterated with fentanyl in late 2016 and early 2017. PHE continues to coordinate a public health response to the risks of potent opioids, based on information gathered through local areas and national agencies.

Commissioners and Service Providers should consider how they can increase their efforts to reach out to those most at need. The PHE London Alcohol, Drugs and Tobacco Team will continue to support local authorities (LAs) in delivering tailored, effective services where people stand the best chance of recovery.”

To read the full document and access the resources, click here: PHE London Drug Related Deaths and Naloxone Bulletin 2018

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