Drug deaths in Northumberland rise by almost 50% since protection of treatment budget removed

A record number of drug deaths were recorded in England and Wales last year.
A record number of drug deaths were recorded in England and Wales last year.

Drug deaths have risen by 48 per cent in Northumberland since the Government removed protection of the drug and alcohol treatment budget, new data has revealed.

Figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) released last week show that 46 people – 36 men and 10 women – died as a consequence of drug misuse in Northumberland between 2014 and 2016.

This is 48 per cent more than in 2010-12, when the drug and alcohol treatment budget for addicts was still protected by the Government and 31 people died in Northumberland because of drug misuse – 26 men and 5 women.

In England, 6,803 people – 4,964 men and 1,839 women – died because of drug misuse between 2014-16; almost 2,000 more across the whole country than when the budget for Government-funded treatment was ring-fenced.

These figures have fuelled growing concern that the Government’s decision to remove the ring-fenced drug and alcohol treatment budget back in 2012, when the responsibility shifted from the National Treatment Agency (NTA) to a more localised approach to service provision, has had the negative impact on vulnerable individuals experts predicted it would.

Ed Morrow, drugs policy lead for the Royal Society for Public Health, said: “While the UK Government stubbornly refuses to make meaningful moves towards a more progressive, public health-based approach to drug policy and while local authority treatment budgets continue to be cut, it should come as no surprise that drug deaths in England and Wales are continuing to rise.”

Eytan Alexander, founder of UK Addiction Treatment Centres, added: “We’re saddened to read the latest ONS report and to see the amount of vulnerable addicts dying in Northumberland because of drugs is continuing to rise.

“Only recently, when the Government launched its 2017 Drug Strategy, did they make a point of saying that according to their own research, treatment is effective. We would urge anyone dealing with drug dependency, or any addiction for that matter, to seek help before this crisis escalates even further.”

A Government spokesman said: “Any death related to misuse of drugs is a tragedy. While drug misuse is lower than ten years ago, we are absolutely committed to reducing it and the harm it causes.

“That’s why last month the Government released a comprehensive new drugs strategy, setting out a balanced approach which brings together police, health, community and global partners to tackle the illicit drug trade, protect the most vulnerable and help those with drug dependency to recover and turn their lives around.”