Last year’s annual report by the Office for National Statistics on drug-related deaths showed a sharp increase in deaths that were recorded as resulting from drug misuse, and we blogged and commented on this at the time.
The number of deaths rose from 1,492 deaths in 2012 to 1,812 in 2013, a 21% rise and the highest number since 2009.
At the beginning of this year, working with Public Health England and the Local Government Association, DrugScope organised a summit to examine what might be causing the rise and to look at what might be done to reduce overdose deaths in future years.
The attendees included policy makers from across government, commissioners, clinical and service provider leaders, and service user perspectives.
The key messages from the summit were:
- The availability of accurate, timely and easily accessible data is important in order to make the appropriate adjustments to policy and practice in order to reduce drug-related deaths;
- The majority of drug misuse deaths still involve opiates, in particular heroin and methadone;
- Being in contact with a treatment service would appear to be a significant protective factor for drug-related deaths;
- Services and practitioners should pay attention to the elevated risk for those in treatment who are regularly overdosing, are drinking excessively, live alone in temporary accommodation or are homeless, or as a result of smoking-related diseases have compromised respiratory systems;
- Policy makers and commissioners should think about providing timely and accurate alerts to drug users who are not in the treatment system - including drug users who don't use opiates;
- Commissioners and services should look at how they could supply naloxone more widely in the community to ensure those vulnerable to heroin overdose (including those not in treatment), their families, peers and carers are able to access the medicine.