The number of drug-related deaths in the UK has doubled since 2012, according to a report from addiction support organisation UK Addiction Treatment Centres. Drug misuse is now the third biggest killer of those aged 15 to 40, with opiates such as heroin in particular playing a part in the increased mortality rate.
Illegal drug use costs the government an estimated €10.7 billion per year, split between health services, law enforcement and dealing with other drug-related crime.
Why is the death-rate increasing?
There is no single cause for the rising number of deaths, but one significant factor is an ageing demographic of drug users. The people who got hooked on heroin when they were young are now hitting middle-age, where normal age-related health complications are compounded by their drug dependency.
Unemployment, homelessness, mental health issues and a family history of drug use are also strongly correlated with drug addiction.
Which regions are most affected?
Statistics for England & Wales show that areas furthest away from London and the south-east have the highest numbers of drug-related deaths. London had 32.2 deaths per million people, whereas the north-east of England had 77.4 deaths per million – more than double that of the capital.
Scotland saw a record-number of drug-related deaths in 2015 – a total of 706 people. In all areas of the UK men were more likely than women to die from drug misuse, and opiates were the biggest killers – this includes heroin, morphine, methadone, tramadol, oxycodone and fentanyl.
The infographic below illustrates more of the shocking statistics behind the UK’s drug problem. Click or tap on the image for a better view.
If you or someone you know needs help with an addiction, you can find a wide range of information, advice and resources at https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/healthy-body/drug-addiction-getting-help/.