Spice and fentanyl to blame for ‘devastating’ rise in drug deaths

PUBLISHED: 16:00 13 August 2018

North Somerset has seen a 60 per cent rise in deaths caused by drugs.

North Somerset has seen a 60 per cent rise in deaths caused by drugs.

Archant

Dozens of people have suffered drug-related deaths in North Somerset in recent years, with the district seeing a 60 per cent rise in lives lost to substance abuse.

‘Devastating’ data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) has revealed 37 people died as a result of drug poisoning in the district from 2015-2017.

That represents an increase of almost 61 per cent from the previous three-year period, where 23 deaths were blamed on poisoning caused by legal and illegal substances.

Karen Tyrell, the executive director of alcohol and drug charity Addaction which works with addicts from across North Somerset, told the Times she feels the number of deaths is ‘devastating’.

She said: “It’s such needless waste of life and a tragedy for so many families and loved ones.

“We have so much more (work) to do.

“The truth is that most drug-related deaths are preventable.

“People who use opioids, like heroin, often have had very difficult, traumatic lives and we’re letting them down if we don’t give them the best care that we can.”

The number of deaths caused by misuse of illegal drugs in particular rose from 16 in 2012-14 to 28 in 2015-17 – an increase of 75 per cent.

More men than women died as a result of poisoning in the latest three-year period, with 24 males and 13 females losing their lives after taking drugs.

However, drug-related deaths are less common in North Somerset than across England and the rest of the South West, according to the ONS.

North Somerset Council says it is working to reduce the number of drug-related deaths in the district through treatment programmes, overdose prevention training and a naloxone distribution scheme.

A council spokesman said: “Understanding the cause of this increase is challenging as it is likely to be the result of numerous factors.

“These include a reported rise in the number of individuals who have severe mental and physical health problems alongside their problems with substances, an increase in the availability of high-strength substances such as fentanyl, the emergence of new substances such as spice and the development of county lines drug dealing networks.

“The larger number of deaths amongst men compared with woman is likely to be caused by a higher prevalence of drug use by males than females.”

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