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Monday, 26 February, 2001, 00:16 GMT
Drug-related deaths soar
injecting drug user
Heroin use has become more widespread in recent years
The number of people whose death was linked to the abuse of drugs like cocaine and heroin has increased sharply.

The latest official figures covering the period 1995 to 1999 will concern anti-drugs campaigners, and show the increasing popularity of hard drugs in recent years.

Drugs mentioned on UK death certificates - 1999
Heroin/Morphine: 754
Methadone: 298
Cocaine: 87
Ecstasy: 26
Cannabis: 7
Diazepam: 112
Paracetamol: 267
In 1995, heroin, or the morphine it becomes in the body, was mentioned on 357 death certificates.

By 1999, this had risen to 754 certificates.

The rise in cocaine-related deaths is even more significant, from 19 in 1995 to 87 in 1999.

Rosie Brocklehurst, a spokeswoman for Addaction, a charity specialising in the treatment of those with drug and alcohol problems, said anecdotal evidence pointed to a rise in heroin use.

She said: "In Brighton, we have 50 new registrations at the needle exchange we run every month.

"I would expect that the statistics are influenced by better calculation of data in more recent years."

But she added: "There is no difficulty in people getting hold of heroin. As soon as the police deal with one pusher, another arrives."

Methadone deaths

The number of deaths apparently related to the heroin substitute methadone remained constant at between 300 and 400.

The number of deaths associated with any form of anphetamines also rose, from 48 in 1995 to 79 in 1999.

There is no difficulty in people getting hold of heroin

Rosie Brocklehurst, Addaction
Much of this increase could be attributed to ecstasy, with deaths rising to 26 in 1999.

There were seven deaths in which cannabis was mentioned on the certificate in 1999.

Painkillers continued to take a heavy toll in each of the five years. In total, paracetamol or compounds including it were linked to more than 2,500 deaths over this period.

The rise in heroin-related death in the UK broadly reflects a similar trend throughout Europe, increasing from just over 10 cases per million population in 1995 to approximately 25 cases per million in 1999.

The cause of drug-related death was varied - from a total of 9,373 deaths, just under 3,000 were recorded by coroners as accidental, and 3,800 as either suicide or undetermined.

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