THE number of drug-related deaths increased in Conwy last year, stark new figures show.
Charities have criticized the Government over a lack of action on drug deaths across England and Wales – which have reached another record high – with experts calling the latest figures an “utter disgrace”.
Data from the Office for National Statistics show 11 deaths related to drug poisoning were registered in Conwy in 2021, up from seven the previous year.
They were among 4,859 drug poisoning deaths registered across England and Wales last year – the ninth consecutive rise and the highest number since records began more than a quarter of a century ago in 1993.
The figures cover drug abuse and dependence, fatal accidents, suicides and complications involving controlled and non-controlled drugs, prescription and over-the-counter medications.
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Of the drug deaths recorded nationally last year, 3,060 (63 per cent) were due to misuse, meaning they involved illegal drugs, or were a result of drug abuse or dependence – including nine in Conwy.
Around half of the deaths registered nationally in 2021 will have occurred in previous years due to death registration delays, the ONS said.
Niamh Eastwood, executive director of Release, the national center for drugs expertise, said every drug-related death is avoidable.
“It is an utter disgrace that we are again talking about record breaking drug deaths,” she added.
“Drug deaths are a public health emergency across the UK that can and must be adequately addressed. Government inaction is a political choice.”
She added that deaths will continue to rise without commitment to “serious policy reforms”, such as the decriminalization of possession and safe supply of all controlled drugs.
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The ONS said the overall rising trend over the past decade has been driven primarily by deaths involving opiates, but also those involving other substances such as cocaine.
Just under half of the drug deaths registered across England and Wales last year involved an opiate.
The ONS figures show that the age standardized mortality rate – which accounts for age and population size – stood at 8.4 deaths per 100,000 people in Conwy between 2019 and 2021, below the rate for Wales, of 8.9.
A UK Government spokesperson said its drug strategy will help rebuild drug treatment services and tackle criminal supply chains.
He added: “This will help prevent nearly 1,000 deaths, deliver over 54,500 new treatment places – a 19% increase on current numbers – and support 24,000 more people into recovery from substance dependency.
“This funding is additional to the annual public health grant spend and builds on the £80million put into treatment services in 2021 which worked to decrease drug-related deaths by helping services distribute more naloxone, which can help reverse opiate overdoses.”