There were 4,859 deaths related to drug poisoning registered in 2021 – a rate of 84.4.deaths per million people.
It marks the ninth year in a row the figures have risen, up 6.2 per cent from the previous year.
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However, due to delays in administration, around half of the deaths registered in 2021 will have occurred in previous years.
The deaths were driven primarily by opiates.
Crucially, the figures differentiate between ‘drug poisoning’ – which can be considered ‘one-offs’, accidental or an intentional overdose – and ‘drug misuse’, where drug abuse or dependency is an underlying cause.
In Sheffield, 61 deaths from drug poisonings were registered in 2021, in line with 60 from 2021.
However, this figures is double the 33 deaths registered in 2017 – and triple the 20 seen in 2011.
Shockingly, this increase can be seen nationwide – where rates of drug-related deaths have risen 81.1 per cent since 2012.
It comes after 20-year-old Max Shaw reportedly died from drug poisoning after attending the Bassfest music festival in Sheffield in July this year, where several other people were fell seriously ill after taking ecstasy or MDMA.
And, in 2017, University of Sheffield student Joana Burns, 22, died after taking MDMA on a night out as a ‘final fling’ before finishing uni.
Drug misuse – where drug abuse was an underlying cause – accounted for 48 registered deaths in 2021.
It mirrors the increase seen in drug poisonings, with 23 registered in 2017 and 17 seen in 2011.
The ONS says in 2021 there have been “significant” rises from 2020 in deaths involving cocaine, methadone and new psychoactive substances.
Possible explanations for the rise could be that drug users are aging who are experiencing the effects of long-term use and becoming more susceptible to a fatal overdose.
The ONS figures cover drug abuse and dependence, fatal accidents, suicides and complications involving controlled and non-controlled drugs, prescription and over-the-counter medications.
Mike Trance, chief executive of the Forward Trust, said the rise in drug-related deaths comes amid people mixing substances, known as “poly drug use”.
He said: “I think the pandemic has made things worse. Most deaths are what we call deaths of despair – people who are lonely, they’re using drugs in situations where they don’t have support or other people to protect them. And that was definitely worse during the pandemic.”
“So I think that does have an effect, and that’s what we have to bear down on. We need to provide much better support and inclusion to people who are living very isolated, marginalised lives,” he added.
Mr Trance also hit out at the “tough language” of condemnation from politicians and other public figures about clamping down on people who use drugs.
He said: “That message is absolutely the opposite of what we should be saying to people who are struggling with drug addiction.
“We should be saying that society cares about you. Society offers help. And, you know, if you reach out for that help, then you can turn your life around and make things better.”