Big increase in borough drug deaths

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THE number of drug-related deaths recorded at Wigan inquests has shot up in the space of a year.

Research by the International Centre for Drug Policy – which is a review of coroners’ inquests – shows that in 2010, 12 adults aged over 16 were killed after taking drugs either illegal or prescription.

This figure has risen dramatically from one person in 2009.

The figures do not include deaths where drugs were named only as “contributing factors.”

The most populated age range for deaths attributed solely to drugs was 35 to 44, with seven deaths, followed by 25 to 34, with two fatalities, and one death in each of the age groups 15 to 24, 45 to 54 and over-64.

The most heavily used drugs were hypnotics and sedatives, followed by methadone, heroin and morphine.

But while there has been a significant increase, Wigan is mid-table in a list of 24 primary care trusts and strategic health authorities in terms of drug-related deaths. Manchester had the highest figure of 46, while Knowsley had just one.

Similarly, Wigan was 10th lowest out of 24 PCTs and strategic health authorities, for drug misuse cases, with eight people. The worst offending area was Lancashire East, with 20. Knowsley again held the best record, with one person using drugs.

Dr Kate Ardern, executive director of Public Health for Wigan, said the figures were misleading as they only looked at coroners’ reports from inquests, with no information to show how many were suicides or how many were open verdicts.

She stated that not all deaths in the report were due to the use of illicit substances, that drugs were not in always a primary factor, and the individuals that died were not all in local substance misuse services. 

She said: “As very few people die from drug-related causes across Wigan each year, it can be very misleading to make assumptions based on variations from one year to the next because these are such small numbers.

“Changes to these small numbers can also be due to individual coroners’ rulings as opposed to an actual drop or increase in drug related deaths.

“We cannot assume that the small numbers of drug-related deaths in Wigan are either on the increase or decrease.

“In Wigan, substance misuse services strongly promote messages of harm reduction and relapse prevention to individuals, and we have strong working relationships with Greater Manchester Drug services and partner agencies across health and criminal justice settings to reduce opportunities for drug related deaths to occur.

“If you or someone you know has a problem with the misuse of drugs please phone 0800 389 4463 to get help.”