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Thursday, 24 February, 2000, 16:42 GMT
Drug deaths double

Rise in deaths from cocaine even greater

The number of deaths from drug abuse has doubled among men since 1993, official figures show.

The increase is almost as great for women - and deaths from cocaine use have trebled, the Office of National Statistics says.

In 1997, 491 men in England and Wales died as a result of their drug habit, compared to 245 in 1993.

The level of deaths from drug misuse is unacceptably high
Roger Howard, SCODA
The number of deaths for women over the same period was up from 45 to 84.

Hard drugs such as heroin and cocaine were mainly to blame for the deaths, but deaths from Ecstasy, which has had a very high profile in recent years, have fallen.

The figures come from a new database drawn up by the Office of National Statistics, which lists all substances recorded on death certificates where the underlying cause is regarded as being drug-related.

The database is aimed at presenting the first accurate picture of drug deaths and to help shape government policy.

The number of drugs-related deaths listed on certificates were:

  • Heroin - 255 , compared to 67 in 1993
  • Cocaine - 12, compared to 67 in 1993
  • Ecstasy - eight in 1993, 27 in 1994 and 11 in 1997

Average age

The average age of people whose death certificates recorded heroin or cocaine as a cause of death was just 30, the figures reveal.

A spokesman for the organisation said: "The increase in recordings of cocaine may be due to increased use or increased recording - or it may be a combination on of both."

Roger Howard, chief executive of the Standing Conference on Drug Abuse, said: "The level of deaths from drug misuse is unacceptably high. People are dying from overdoses, as well as the consequences of virus infections such as hepatitis C, which is a public health time bomb throughout the UK.

"The government must prioritise and allocate new resources to train those coming into contact with drug misusers about ways of reducing risk of death."

He added: "People leaving prison are particularly vulnerable, and it is essential we see major new investment in ensuring they do not return to dangerous practices."

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See also:
24 May 99 |  Health
Britain tops drug league
03 Sep 98 |  Health
Saturday night fever puts drug users in hospital
14 Sep 99 |  Medical notes
Drugs factfile

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