Newspaper article Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)

Number of Deaths Due to Drugs at Its Highest

Newspaper article Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)

Number of Deaths Due to Drugs at Its Highest

Article excerpt

Byline: JONATHAN WALKER Political Reporter jon.walker@reachplc.com

Ian Mearns MP THE number of people dying from drug use in the North East has risen to its highest level ever.

New official statistics show there were 903 deaths as a result of drug poisoning in the North East over a three-year period, from 2016 to 2018.

That's up from 690 deaths in the three years before that, from 2013 to 2015. It's an increase of 30%.

More men died than women, with 636 deaths among males and 267 among females.

The highest number of recorded deaths was in County Durham, where 153 were recorded during the three year period. There were 108 deaths in Newcastle.

But areas with the highest mortality rate - once the size of the population is taken into account - include Gateshead, where there were 14.6 deaths as a result of drug poisoning for every 100,000 people in the population.

Experts say the explanation for the increase include increased availability of heroin, due to a period of relative peace in Afghanistan. But they also highlight cuts to drug and alcohol treatment services. A survey by addiction treatment firm UKAT found that of North East councils that responded, PS35.7m was being spent on helping those struggling with addiction back in 2013 while the number has dropped to PS27.2m this financial year.

UKAT Managing Director Eytan Alexander said: "Today's Office for National Statistics figures are saddening but unsurprising. We've highlighted the drastic reduction in budget cuts to substance misuse services every year since 2013 and unfortunately, these figures now show the impact this is having on the most vulnerable people living across the North East.

"It cannot be coincidence that as councils here slash drug and alcohol treatment budgets by PS8m over six years, the highest number of people on record lose their lives to drugs. …

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