Drug-related deaths could cost councils £700m this year, says LGA

4 Aug 17

An increasing rate of drug-related deaths is a major public health concern that could end up costing public finances £700m, council leaders have warned.

The Office For National Statistics published its latest figures for drug-related deaths in England and Wales in 2016 on Wednesday.

According to the ONS numbers there were 3,744 drug poisoning deaths involving both legal and illegal drugs in England and Wales registered in 2016, this is 70 higher than 2015 - an increase of 2% - and the highest number since comparable statistics began in 1993.

Of those 3,744 deaths, 69% (2,593) were drug misuse deaths, more than half (54%) of all deaths related to drug poisoning in 2016 involving an opiate, mainly heroin and or morphine.

Izzi Seccombe, chairman of the Local Government Association’s community wellbeing board, said: "The record-high number of drug-related deaths is a major concern to councils and a worrying public health challenge.

“This is why nine in 10 councils now provide take-home naloxone, to tackle overdoses and opiate-related deaths in their areas, which may be a contributing factor to the number of heroin-related deaths remaining stable in 2016.”

Seccombe added: “This year alone, local authorities are budgeting to spend more than £700m on tackling substance misuse."

She explained the biggest challenge was older habitual drug users who had not previously sought treatment as they were more likely to die through an overdose.

"It is essential that we engage those not already in drug treatment," the leader for Warwickshire Council added. 

"While latest estimates suggest there are about 200,000 people getting help, we must focus our efforts on reaching out to the 100,000 who are not.”

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