Drug deaths reach record high in England and Wales

Drug-related deaths reached a record high in England and Wales last year, new figures have revealed.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) has reported that there were 3,744 deaths from drug poisoning registered in 2016, the highest since comparable records began in 1993.

The study found that deaths involving heroin and cocaine were at their highest level ever recorded.


Deaths involving either heroin or morphine or both doubled in the last four years to 1,209 in 2016, and are now the highest on record.

And deaths involving cocaine have increased for the past five consecutive years. Last year, they rose by 16 per cent to 371, an increase from 320 in 2015.

Rosanna O’Connor, Director of Alcohol, Drugs and Tobacco at Public Health England, highlighted the number of deaths caused by heroin.

She commented: “It is tragic that we are still seeing an increase in people dying from drug misuse, particularly among older heroin users.”

‘Zombie’ drugs

Deaths involving psychoactive substances – formerly known as ‘legal highs’ – have also risen, with 123 deaths recorded last year.

And deaths relating to a so-called “zombie drug” have more than trebled compared to 2015. There were 27 deaths from ‘spice’ last year, up from eight in 2015.

A spokesman for the Government said: “Any death related to misuse of drugs is a tragedy. While drug misuse is lower than ten years ago, we are absolutely committed to reducing it and the harm it causes.”

Related Resources