Drug deaths in Sheffield triple in last 10 years as doctors warn of 'parallel pandemic'

The number of people dying of drug related deaths in Sheffield has tripled since 2010, and increased by more than a quarter in the last year on record alone.
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In 2020, 60 people in Sheffield died drug-related deaths – an increase from 18 a decade earlier.

Over those 10 years, the number of drug deaths has risen steadily.

Between 2019 and 2020 the number rose from 43 to 60.

The drugs-related death rate is increasing in Sheffield.The drugs-related death rate is increasing in Sheffield.
The drugs-related death rate is increasing in Sheffield.
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The rise in Sheffield reflects the trend across South Yorkshire, where the number rose from 54 to 160 over the same period.

Eytan Alexander is a recovering drug addict and the CEO of the UK Addiction Treatment Group, which sourced the data.

He said: "What we're seeing today is a 12 per cent rise in the number of people who have lost their lives to drugs across South Yorkshire in just one year, the year that happened to bring the world to its knees with the Coronavirus crisis.

“People suffering with long-term drug dependency were told to 'stay home' when in fact critical care intervention services were still there to help. Addiction thrives off isolation, loneliness, fear and anxiety and unfortunately, 2020 would have been too much for some drug users to cope with.

Eytan AlexanderEytan Alexander
Eytan Alexander
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“We must remember that these aren't just numbers; they're your grandparents, parents, neighbours, colleagues and friends. They're people who were swept to one side last year and who paid the ultimate price.

“What this country doesn't realise is that we're living in a parallel pandemic - a drug, alcohol and mental health crisis that has only worsened because of the virus. We urge anyone out there struggling to ask for the help they need before its too late.”

On a national level, 4,561 drug poisoning deaths were registered in 2020 in England and Wales. This reflects a rise of 3.8 per cent on the previous year, and is equivalent to an age-standardised mortality rate of 79.5 deaths per million people.

Two-thirds, or 2,996, of registered drug poisoning deaths in 2020 were related to drug misuse – meaning the underlying cause of death is drug abuse or drug dependence as drug addiction treatment experts UKAT suggest these are the people that have ‘been ignored for far too long’.

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Cocaine-related deaths have rocketed in 2020; 777 deaths involved cocaine, 9.7 per cent more than in 2019 and more than five times the amount recorded just 10 years ago, when there were 144.

Almost half – 49.6 per cent – of all drug related deaths in 2020 involved opiates such as heroin and morphine.

The data also reveals an increase in the number of deaths involving benzodiazepines – drugs prescribed by GPs for anxiety and insomnia – with deaths rising from 399 in 2019 to 476 in 2020 – almost 20 per cent more.

Deaths from prescribed drugs like pregabalin, gabapentin and zopiclone have all also risen significantly in 2020 from 2019, 41 per cent, 32.6 per cent and 4.3 per cent respectively.

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In 2020, the highest rate of drug misuse deaths was found in those aged 45 to 49 years, closely followed by those aged 40 to 44 years. This age cohort has consistently had the highest rates of drug misuse deaths for the past 25 years.

Males accounted for more than two-thirds of drug poisoning deaths last year.