Drug-related deaths in England and Wales have risen for the eighth year in a row as the UK as a whole grapples with a deepening drugs crisis and associated social ills.
According to the Office for National Statistics, there were 4,561 deaths related to drug poisoning in England and Wales in 2020, the highest since records began in 1993.
The latest figures represent a 3.8 percent rise in drug-related fatalities compared to 2019.
Looking at the big picture, drug-related deaths in England and Wales have risen by 60.9 percent in the past 10 years – from 49.4 deaths per million in 2010 to 79.5 deaths per million in 2020.
The latest figures for England and Wales come on the heels of news that Scotland has the highest drug-related fatalities in Europe, registering 1,339 deaths in 2020.
Commenting on the latest figures for England and Wales, Eytan Alexander, who is a recovering addict and chief executive of the UK Addiction Treatment Group, described the rise in fatalities as “saddening but unsurprising”.
"We're living in a parallel pandemic; a drug, alcohol and mental health pandemic that has only worsened due to the [corona] virus”, Alexander added.
Meanwhile, Dr Emily Finch, the vice-chair of the addictions faculty at the Royal College of Psychiatrists, attributed the rising mortality rate to “years of cuts” to counter-addiction services and facilities by the government.
"The government needs to wake up to the fact that cuts to services, disconnecting NHS [National Health Service] mental health services from [counter] addiction services and shifting the focus away from harm reduction to abstinence-based recovery is destroying lives and fuelling the increase in drug-related deaths", Finch added.