Concern over record number of drug deaths

A drug addict holding up a needle before injecting heroin (picture posed)
A drug addict holding up a needle before injecting heroin (picture posed)

A record number of people in Wigan have died from drugs misuse, new figures reveal.

The Office For National Statistics has released new data which shows 61 people were killed by drug poisoning between 2014 and 2016.

That equates to 6.5 deaths for every 100,000 people living in the borough.

The number of deaths in Wigan has more than doubled since records began.

There were 29 deaths related to drugs misuse between 2001 and 2003, which was the equivalent of 3.1 deaths for every 100,000 people.

The latest figures rank Wigan as the local authority with the second highest number of drugs deaths in Greater Manchester.

There were 113 in Manchester in 2014-16, with Rochdale and Bolton both in third place with 48 deaths each.

Drug misuse deaths are where the underlying cause is drug abuse or drug dependence, or where the underlying cause is drug poisoning and involving controlled drugs.

Prof Kate Ardern, Wigan Council’s director of public health, said: “The rise in the number of drug-related deaths is a national upward trend, not solely in Wigan borough. We are always looking at innovative ways in which we can address drug problems in the borough, for example through our new drug early warning system.

“The early warning system is a Greater Manchester-wide operation which gives different organisations the chance to share information and details of incidents swiftly and help to draw up a pattern of drug use in the local and surrounding areas. It also helps frontline services get the most up-to-date information on emerging drugs. Wigan borough was one of the first to launch the system in the region, this work is an example of how The Deal For Health and Wellness is being put into action every day.

“There is support available for people with substance issues at the Wigan And Leigh Recovery Partnership who work with young people, adults, and their families to provide information, treatment and support for anyone affected by alcohol and drugs.

“We are committed to preventing drug and alcohol-related harm through our adult and young people drug and alcohol services, which provides strong support that is accessible for anyone affected by drug or alcohol issues in the borough.”

The figures show that the number of deaths related to drugs misuse in England rose from 4,651 in 2001-03 to 6,803 in 2014-16.

In the North West, it increased from 760 to 1,251.

There were 3,744 drug poisoning deaths involving both legal and illegal drugs in England and Wales in 2016.

This was 70 higher than 2015 - an increase of two per cent - and the highest number since comparable statistics began in 1993.

Of these 3,744 deaths, 69 per cent - 2,593 - were drug misuse deaths.

People aged 40 to 49 had the highest rate of drug misuse deaths in 2016, overtaking those aged 30 to 39.

More than half (54 per cent) of all deaths related to drug poisoning in 2016 involved an opiate, mainly heroin and/or morphine.