UK drug overdose deaths highest in Europe

Deaths from drug overdoses continue to rise, with the UK recording the highest numbers in Europe, according to a new report from the EU drugs agency.

The European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) identified a total of 8,441 overdose deaths in 2015, of which the UK accounted for 31 per cent.

It is the third consecutive year that the European total has risen.

Highest in Europe

The European Drug Report 2017: Trends and Developments found the overdoses were primarily due to opioids, including a surge in heroin-related deaths in the UK.

Heroin or morphine were cited in some 1,200 deaths in England and Wales – a 26 per cent increase on the previous year.

In Croatia, Denmark, France and Ireland, the number of methadone-related deaths was found to have exceeded heroin-related deaths.

European Commissioner for Migration and Home Affairs Dimitris Avramopoulos said he was “especially concerned that young people are exposed to many new and dangerous drugs”.


The Director of the EMCDDA, Alexis Goosdeel, revealed that cannabis remains the most commonly used drug in Europe, with over 88 million adults using it last year.

The EMCDDA released separate research which said the UK and Hungary were the two countries that had seen “more extensive use of novel psychoactive substances [NPS]” among low-income groups.

NPS, previously known as ‘legal highs’ are highly addictive. Using them can lead to hallucinations, psychosis, muscle weakness and paranoia.

Last year, the UK Government introduced a blanket ban on the substances.