Drug-related deaths soar to record high in West Midlands

Drug-related deaths in the West Midlands have soared to their highest number since records began.

Drug deaths have increased
Drug deaths have increased

New figures showed drug poisoning deaths rose by 18 per cent over the last six years. Between 2017 and 2019 the figure reached a record high of 1,087, up from 1,027 between 2016-18 and 916 in 2013-15.

The West Midlands trend is in line with that of the whole of England and Wales, where drug-related deaths are also higher than at any point since records began in 1993.

The figures, released by the Office for National Statistics, showed more men than women are dying from drug poisoning.

Men accounted for 71 per cent (771) of all drug poisoning deaths in the West Midlands between 2017-19, a proportion relatively unchanged since 2013-15, when 70 per cent of drug poisoning deaths were also men.

Birmingham accounted for much of the increase in the West Midlands region, where deaths rose from 225 to 277 in six years. In Sandwell it went up from 36 to 47 in the same period.

Across Staffordshire, drug poisoning deaths are up by 22 per cent; from 129 to 158. with a particular spike in Lichfield where deaths have doubled in that time.

However, deaths fell slightly in Wolverhampton, Dudley and Walsall.

Deaths in Shropshire increased from 32 to 50.

Drug addiction experts at UKAT has now urged councils across the West Midlands to invest in drug and alcohol treatment services to give more people a chance of escaping addition.

Nuno Albuquerque, group treatment lead at UKAT, also said he believed the events of 2020 may have led to more people turning to drugs.

He said: “These ONS figures are saddening but unsurprising. It is here in black and white, the situation is only getting worse for those most vulnerable in society.

"We urge councils across the West Midlands to invest in effective drug and alcohol services in their 2021 budget to avoid even more loss of life.

“We must remember that these aren't just numbers; they're someone's mother, father, child or friend who has lost their lives to drugs and we can't stress enough the value of investing in the treatment of addiction.

“2020 has proven to be a difficult year for many. Some will undoubtedly turn to misusing drugs as a coping mechanism. Our fear is that these figures could tip off the scale in next year’s report unless Councils here take proactive, preventative action today in order to save lives tomorrow.”

Substances involved in the drug-poisoning deaths registered in the West Midlands report were not been revealed, however UKAT said it had discovered both legal and illegal drugs are included in the death rates.

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