Continued reduction in the number of drug-related deaths in the UK

October 28, 2005

The National Programme on Substance Abuse Deaths (np-SAD) based at the International Centre for Drug Policy, St George's, University of London, has found that there has been a decline in the number of drug-related deaths occurring, from 1,487 in 2003 to 1,372 in 2004, a drop of eight per cent. The report published today contains information on drug-related deaths for the year 2004 reported by Coroners and Procurators Fiscal in the UK and Islands (Guernsey, Jersey and Isle of Man). The figures for 2004 do not include information for Northern Ireland.

Main findings are:

The majority of deaths were of males (72 per cent)

73 per cent of all deaths were under the age of 45 years.

56 per cent of cases died from accidental poisoning. This is a five percent increase compared with the previous year. However, the proportion of intentional self-poisoning cases remained stable at 35 percent.

Opiates/opioids (i.e. heroin/morphine; methadone; other opiate/opioid analgesics), alone or in combination with other drugs, accounted for the majority of fatalities (68 per cent) in 2004. Even though the total number of deaths had fallen between 2003 and 2004, the number of deaths involving heroin/morphine was virtually unchanged and so there has been an increase in the proportion of deaths involving heroin/morphine by 6% (to 46%). The proportions of deaths involving other illicit drugs remained stable.

A decrease of about two per cent in the proportion of cases involving other opiates/opioid analgesics (i.e. codeine, dextropropoxyphene, dihydrocodeine) was observed, together with a reduction of about three percent in the proportion of cases involving hypnotics/sedatives.

In England and Wales, Brighton & Hove recorded the highest annual drug-related death rate per 100,000 population (21.8), followed by Liverpool (15.8), and Blackpool & the Fylde (11.1). Of these five areas, only Liverpool showed an increase over 2003 (up from 7.4).

Compared with the same period in 2003, the following jurisdictions reported a notable reduction in deaths amongst those aged 16 and over, than in the previous year: in Manchester there was a notable decrease from 36 to 4; in Boston & Spalding there were 13 deaths in 2003, which reduced to 3 in 2004; East Lancashire had a reduction from 25 in 2003 to 15 in 2004. Although Brighton & Hove continued to show the highest annual drug-related death rate nationally, there was a reduction in the number of deaths from 51 in 2003 to 46 in 2004.

Compared with 2003, the following jurisdictions reported higher number of deaths among those aged 16 and over, than in the previous year: Central Hampshire reported an increase from 2 deaths in 2003 to 14 deaths in 2004; South Northumberland saw an increase from zero to 5; the number of deaths in Central & South East Kent rose from 2 in 2003 to 7 in 2004; and in North Tyneside there were 4 deaths in 2004, compared to none in 2003.

In commenting on the above data, Professor Hamid Ghodse, Director of the International Centre for Drug Policy, St George's, University of London, said: "The findings of this report seem to indicate a further overall decrease in drug-related deaths in the UK. This is excellent news and could well be the result of both the drug misuse monitoring and prevention initiatives promoted and carried out in the last few years. We hope that this trend will continue. However, there is the need for continued vigilance and constant monitoring of the drug-related deaths situation to ensure that the trend continues to decline and lives are saved. I would like to thank the Department of Health for their support for this very important Programme".

Baroness Cumberlege, Chair of the International Centre for Drug Policy's Advisory Board commented "the cultivation of opium and production of heroin in Afghanistan continues to have its impact on the drug-related deaths in the UK and we need to continue to do everything possible on prevention of drug trafficking and the protection of our young people from the scourge of drug abuse problems"
-end-
Notes to Editors

The report "Drug-Related Deaths in the UK - Annual Report 2005", is available from the National Programme on Substance Abuse Deaths, International Centre for Drug Policy, St George's, University of London, London SW17 0RE. Copies of the report are £12.50 (£10.00 for early orders) including postage and packaging (within the UK). These can be obtained by contact with the programme via email at npsad@sgul.ac.uk

Press contact thorugh Emma Griffiths at St. George's, Univeristy of London tel; 020 8725 1139

St George's, University of London is the only independently governed medical school in England and provides training to a wide range of healthcare students on one site. As well as providing courses in medicine and biomedical sciences, the Medical School also offers courses in midwifery, nursing, physiotherapy, radiography and social work in conjunction with Kingston University. The school is extremely active in research and has a high reputation in areas such as infection as well as diseases of the heart and circulation. Other areas of expertise include stroke rehabilitation, air pollution and addictions.

St. George's University of London

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