There is no one definition of what we mean by drug-related deaths. For example, it could include:
- people who are dependent on drugs and overdose
- suicides by overdose of people who have no previous history of using drugs
- accidental poisoning or overdose
- ecstasy related deaths where people have died from overheating through dancing non-stop in hot clubs rather than from the direct effect of the drugs
- deaths associated with cigarette smoking
- deaths from accidents where people are drunk or under the influence of drugs
- murders and manslaughters where people are drunk or under the influence of drugs
- deaths from driving while drunk or intoxicated
- deaths from AIDS among injecting drug users
- deaths which had nothing to do with the presence of a drug in the body
Cause of death is recorded on death certificates but doctors may not mention drugs, even where drugs might be involved.
Despite these difficulties there are estimates of the possible number of deaths associated with different drugs.
The Latest statistics on drug related deaths were published August 2nd 2017 – Deaths related to drug poisoning in England and Wales: 2016 registrations | ONS, UK
According to these statistics:
- There were 3,744 drug poisoning deaths involving both legal and illegal drugs in England and Wales registered in 2016; this is 70 higher than 2015 (an increase of 2%) and the highest number since comparable statistics began in 1993.
- Of these 3,744 deaths, 69% (2,593) were drug misuse deaths.
- There has been an increase in the rate of deaths related to drug misuse in Wales from 58.3 deaths per 1 million population in 2015 to 66.9 per 1 million in 2016; deaths in England have remained comparable between 2015 and 2016.
- People aged 40 to 49 years had the highest rate of drug misuse deaths in 2016, overtaking those aged 30 to 39 years.
- Over half (54%) of all deaths related to drug poisoning in 2016 involved an opiate (mainly heroin and/or morphine).