Drug deaths across the North West are the highest since records began, according to the Office for National Statistics, with addiction experts warning that budget cuts cost lives.
In the last five years alone, there has been a 15% rise in the number of drug poisoning deaths across the North West, with the ONS reporting that the number of fatalities in the region due to drug abuse has reached its highest number and has seen the highest annual increase since their record began back in 1993.
Between 2016-18, drug poisoning deaths in the North West reached a record high of 1,888, up from 1,835 between 2015-17 and 1,658 in 2013-15, while the percentage of men dying from drugs has risen by 15% since 2013 (1,088 to 1,256), and by 10% for women (570 to 632).
Drug addiction experts at UKAT blame drastic cuts to drug and alcohol treatment services across the North West for the rise in deaths, with their MD, Eytan Alexander, saying: “Today’s ONS figures are saddening but unsurprising. We’ve highlighted the drastic reduction in budget cuts to substance misuse services every year since 2013 and unfortunately, these figures now show the impact this is having on the most vulnerable people living across the North West.
“It cannot be coincidence that as councils here slash drug and alcohol treatment budgets by £16 million over 6 years, the highest number of people on record lose their lives to drugs," Eytan added. "We urge councils across the North West to invest in effective drug and alcohol services next year to avoid more loss of life.”
According to Freedom of Information requests, North West councils have slashed budgets for drug and alcohol treatment services to the tune of £16m since 2013 as a direct result of both the coalition and Conservative governments' austerity policies. In 2013, £89m was being spent on helping those struggling with addiction, with the figure dropping to £73 million this financial year.
This represents an 18% wipe-out of funds to substance misuse services which help those most vulnerable.