Brentwood drug deaths spike is third highest increase in England and 2020 could be even worse

Drug-related deaths in Brentwood have increased fourfold in six years – the third highest increase per local authority in the country.

But drug misuse experts have warned that the large increases seen in a report published this week could be dwarfed by the deaths potentially seen in 2020 “unless councils here take proactive, preventative action today”.

The ONS report reveals that between 2017 and 2019, drug poisoning deaths across the 12 districts of Essex are up by 15 per cent compared to the period 2013 to 2015.

Nuno Albuquerque, lead at UK Addiction Treatment Centres (UKAT), said: “2020 has proven to be a difficult year for many. Some will undoubtedly turn to misusing drugs as a coping mechanism.

“Our fear is that these figures could tip off the scale in next year’s report unless councils here take proactive, preventative action today in order to save lives tomorrow.”

The worrying 300 per cent spike seen in Brentwood – from three to 12 – is only matched by Richmondshire, which has seen a 500 per cent increase, and the Derbyshire Dales with a 366 per cent increase.

Charnwood has also seen a 300 per cent increase.

Chelmsford has seen drug deaths increase from 22 to 27, Colchester 40 to 55 and Rochford five to 10.

Detailed analysis of ONS data by drug addiction treatment experts UKAT shows that the East of England region has seen a 22 per cent rise in drug poisoning deaths in the last six years.

The ONS report reveals that between 2017 and 2019, drug poisoning deaths across the East reached a record high of 1,081, up from 1,059 between 2016 and 2018 and up from just 885 in 2013 and 2015.

It also reveals that more men than women are dying from drug poisoning. Men account for 64 per cent, or 694, of all drug poisoning deaths in the East between 2017 and 19. The proportion is relatively unchanged since 2013 and 2015, when 68 per cent of drug poisoning deaths were also men.

Drug addiction experts at UKAT, who analysed the ONS figures, urge councils across the East to invest in drug and alcohol treatment services to avoid more loss of life.

Mr Albuquerque added: “These ONS figures are saddening but unsurprising. It is here in black and white, the situation is only getting worse for those most vulnerable in society. We urge councils across the East to invest in effective drug and alcohol services in their 2021 budget to avoid even more loss of life.

“We must remember that these aren’t just numbers; they’re someone’s mother, father, child or friend who has lost their lives to drugs and we can’t stress enough the value of investing in the treatment of addiction.”

Substances involved in the drug-poisoning deaths registered in the East report have not been revealed by the ONS, however, in its national report, UKAT has discovered that both legal and illegal drugs are accounted for in the drug death rates.

Collectively, UKAT’s analysis of the ONS data shows that for the types of drugs that can be prescribed by GPs – tramadol, codeine, dihydrocodeine, antidepressants, zopiclone, benzodiazepines, antipsychotics and even paracetamol – the death count in 2019 stood at 1,805; 40 per cent of the 4,393 drug deaths registered last year.

This is significantly higher than the collective number of deaths from the same drugs ten years ago, which stood at 1,360.

The analysis also shows that the number of deaths from illegal drugs such as cannabis in 2019 are the highest on record and that cocaine deaths rose for the eighth consecutive year to their highest level – accounting for 16 per cent of all drug-related deaths across England and Wales last year.

Help, support and a free 24/7 live chat support service for drug abuse can be found at ukat.co.uk/drugs/v58/

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Piers Meyler

Local Democracy Reporter