Northumberland drug deaths up by 40% in past decade, figures reveal

The number of drug deaths in Northumberland rose by almost 20% last year and more than 40% over the past decade, according to new figures.

Tuesday, 10th September 2019, 06:00 am

The ONS (Office for National Statistics) recently released new data which shows that between 2016 and 2018, there were 91 deaths related to drug poisoning in the county, up from 77 in 2015-17 and 54 in 2008-10.

This was the fourth highest total in the region, although the county’s age-standardised mortality rate, which takes into account the population and its age profile, was the third lowest.

The number of deaths related to drug misuse in Northumberland was 54 from 2016-18, against 39 from 2015-17 and 38 in 2008-10.

These mirror the national and regional trends, with drug deaths in England and Wales reaching the highest number and highest annual increase since records began back in 1993.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

The same can be said for the North East, which has seen a 13% rise in drug-poisoning deaths since over a three-year period and 30% rise in the last five years.

Experts at addiction treatment firm UKAT blame drastic cuts to drug and alcohol treatment services across the North East for the rise in deaths.

They claim that figures provided to Freedom of Information requests show that of the region’s councils that responded, £35.7million was being spent on helping those struggling with addiction in 2013, but this has dropped by a quarter to £27.2million this financial year.

UKAT’s managing director, Eytan Alexander, said: “The ONS 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 £8million over six years, the highest number of people on record lose their lives to drugs.

“We urge councils across the North East to invest in effective drug and alcohol services next year to avoid more loss of life.”

But Northumberland County Council’s portfolio holder for adult wellbeing and health suggested that the increase is down to a variety of reasons.

Coun Veronica Jones said: “We know from the most recent national inquiry into drug-related deaths that there are many contributing factors to the recent rise in numbers.

“Our role is to ensure people get into the right services for their needs. We are working hard to ensure there are clear pathways for drug treatment needs, and for other associated needs like physical health, mental health and housing.

“If anyone would like help, advice or support, they should contact their GP or contact the Northumberland Recovery Partnership on 01670 396303.”