In England and Wales, more people died of drug poisoning in 2018 than in any other year since records began. Victims between the ages of 30 and 49 were the deadly victims.
The number of opiate deaths has risen to its highest level ever, accounting for more than half of the 4,359 drug-related deaths in England and Wales last year. There has also been an increase in cocaine-related deaths, new psychoactive substances (formerly the legal high) and ecstasy, according to new statistics from the National Statistics Office (ONS).
Two-thirds of deaths were due to drug abuse, which has a strong north-south divide in England, with far more deaths in the north-east than in any other region. London had the lowest rate: 34.9 deaths per million, compared to 96.3 deaths per million in the northeast.
The figures for England and Wales come after Scotland's drug-related deaths reached a record high of 1,187, and the country was equal to the United States in terms of deaths per capita.
The drug deaths in England and Wales increased 16% over the previous year. This is the highest annual increase since the first records in 1993. Men were responsible for more than two-thirds of all deaths.
"This represents a statistically significant increase in the rate of poisoning with 76.3 deaths per million people in 2018 compared to 66.1 deaths per million in 2017," said Ben Humberstone, Deputy Director of Health Analyzes and Life Events at ONS.
Most deaths from drug poisoning were due to accidental poisoning, which accounted for 80% of deaths in males and 67% of deaths in females.
The pattern is similar to that of previous years, but the numbers are significantly higher: Between 2017 and 2018, the rate of male drug poisoning increased from 89.6 to 105.4 million men, while the rate of women rose to 47.5 million for the ninth year in a row rose in 2018.
Since 2012, rates of drug-related poisoning in England and Wales have generally increased, previously attributed to an increase in heroin deaths. Northern Europe (including Scotland and Northern Ireland) has reported an above-average drug-related mortality in recent years.
Last year, men between the ages of 40 and 49, with 125.7 deaths per million, had the highest age-specific drug abuse rate – a much higher rate than in 2017, when there was a rate of 102.8 deaths per million in the same age group ,
"The rate of drug abuse has increased dramatically in every English region and Wales since the start of the 1993 series," said Humberstone.
"In the last decade, the rate of drug abuse in the Northeast has more than doubled (46.3 deaths per million in 2008 to 96.3 in 2018). Wales followed the Northeast with the next highest increase in its rate in the last 10 years with an increase of 84% (39.2 deaths per million in 2008 to 72.0 in 2018). London and the southwest have changed the least during this period. "
The deaths affected a variety of substances, including controlled, uncontrolled and prescription drugs. Opiates, including heroin and morphine, were the most common deaths, but the number of deaths from cocaine has doubled between 2015 and 2018 to its highest level ever.
In addition to deaths from drug abuse and drug addiction, the numbers include accidents and suicides.
Due to the time it takes to complete an investigation, approximately half of drug-related deaths registered in 2018 have occurred in previous years, and many 2018 deaths are not included in the figures.