Registered heroin addict injects prescription medication

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Treatment programs for heroin users have been cut, experts say

Drug numbers rose sharply in England and Wales to a record number last year, according to official figures.

In 2018, the number of deaths related to illicit drugs was 2,917, according to the Office of National Statistics, up 17%.

Most deaths were due to opiates such as heroin, but the number of cocaine-related deaths doubled in three years and the number of deaths related to MDMA was also at its highest level.

A government advisor blamed cuts in treatment programs offering drug addicts.

A total of 4,359 people died from drug poisoning, said the ONS, a figure that includes accidental overdoses and drug suicides, as well as illicit drug use.

It is also the largest annual increase in the number of drug-related deaths since registration began in 1993, statisticians said.

Deaths due to drug addiction among men aged 40 to 49 increased "significantly," they added.

The North East had the highest mortality rate in England, while London had the lowest.

Deaths due to new psychoactive substances – known as "legal highs" until their ban in 2016 – doubled in one year, rising to 125, as a result of a fall in the number of deaths. ;last year. The number of deaths due to MDMA dropped from 56 to 92.

Professor Alex Stevens of the University of Kent, who sits on the government's advisory board on drug abuse, said the number of deaths due to drug poisoning had increased by 47% since 2013 .

"Decimate the financing"

He told BBC Radio 4's Today show that cuts of 27% over three years in treatment services have been behind the latest increases.

"These treatments save lives – you are about half as likely to die if you follow opioid substitution treatment than if you do not – and they also save money by reducing costs for the NHS and the US. crime, "he said.

The Transform Drug Policy Foundation has stated that the rate of drug-related deaths in the UK is now more than double the EU average and 12 times higher than Portugal's, which decriminalized drug possession in 2001.

Shirley Cramer, executive director of the Royal Society of Public Health, said the numbers were "as predictable and avoidable as they are tragic".

"The case for a more harm reduction approach has been clear for years – and yet the government continues to lead with harsh rhetoric about law enforcement, while presiding over a sustained reduction in the budget of local authorities, "she said.

Rose Humphries, who lost two children as a result of a heroin overdose and campaigns against current drug laws, said people like her son had been treated as "collateral damage." " by the government.