England

More people die of drug misuse than on the roads

Heroin user in bathroom Image copyright Thinkstock

Drug misuse causes 10 times as many deaths as collisions on the roads in parts of England and Wales.

Analysis by BBC News has found drug misuse deaths outnumbered road fatalities in three quarters of local authority areas between 2013 and 2015.

The number of people dying of drug misuse has recently reached a record high.

Public Health England (PHE) said it needed to ensure the most vulnerable drug users could access treatment.

Analysing data from the Office for National Statistics BBC News has found that that 75% of all local authorities in England and Wales have seen more people die because of drug misuse than on the roads.

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There were 6,648 drug misuse deaths recorded compared with 4,683 road deaths between 2013 and 2015.

A drug misuse death is recorded when someone dies after abusing a substance or when they are poisoned by an illegal drug.

Portsmouth saw the highest drug to road death rate, where 18 people died because of drug misuse for every one recorded road fatality.

Other parts of the country such as Blackpool, South Tyneside and Brighton and Hove recorded more than 10 times as many drug deaths in comparison to road deaths.

The rise in drug misuse deaths is being attributed to the greater availability and strength of drugs like heroin.

Ian Hamilton, from the University of York, said it was "horrifying" the number of people dying has continued to rise.

"What this shows is that the issue of drug deaths is not just confined to certain areas but is in fact affecting nearly every part of the country".

The lecturer in mental health and addiction studies says a decision in 2010 to end a treatment process that saw addicts often prescribed replacement substances like methadone has had unintended consequences.

"Since a policy of total abstinence was introduced we've seen the number of people dying of drugs increase every year, I don't think that's a coincidence".

Public Health England says there is no evidence to suggest that changes in drug policy have contributed to an increase in drug deaths.

"Reassuringly, overall drug use has declined" said Rosanna O'Connor, from PHE.

"There is though a need to ensure the most vulnerable can access treatment. We know that the majority of those dying from opiates like heroin have never been involved with treatment services".