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Almost half of all drug poisoning in the UK continue to involve an opiate, latest data has shown.

Of the total drug poisoning deaths in 2019, over two thousand involved opiates, latest data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) revealed on Wednesday (October 14).

Opiates were involved in just under half (49.2 per cent) of drug poisonings registered in 2019, increasing to 62.4 per cent when the data excludes deaths that had no drug type recorded on the death certificate.

The latest data equates these deaths to a rate of 37.9 deaths per million people, which was not significantly different from the rate of 38.7 deaths per million recorded in 2018.

“Around 21 per cent of drug poisoning deaths registered in 2019 had no drug type recorded on the coroner’s death certificate.  This means the records only mention ‘drug overdose’ or ‘multiple drug toxicity’ or ‘no mention’,” ONS has noted.

Heroin and morphine continued to be the most frequently mentioned opiates with 1,329 drug poisoning deaths mentioning either one of these substances in 2019.

This was similar to the 1,336 deaths observed in 2018 and equates to a rate of 23.3 deaths per million people in 2019.

Total drug deaths in 2019

Last year, the number of drug-related deaths in England and Wales jumped to the highest levels since records started in 1993.

ONS recorded 4,393 deaths related to drug poisoning in England and Wales in 2019, equivalent to an age-standardised mortality rate of 76.7 deaths per million people.

The data is similar to the rate in 2018-76.3 deaths per million when there were 4,359 registered deaths.

Ben Humberstone, deputy director of Health Analysis and Life Events at the ONS said: “The number of deaths due to drug poisoning registered in 2019 remains at a similar level to 2018.

“Almost half of all drug related deaths involved opiates such as heroin and morphine. However, cocaine deaths rose for the eighth consecutive year to their highest level. “The data in this release relate to deaths registered in 2019 and therefore do not cover deaths that occurred during the coronavirus pandemic.” ‘

England and Wales have recorded 4,393 deaths related to drug poisoning last year. This is the highest number since the data time series began in 1993 but remains broadly similar to the number observed in 2018, when there were 4,359 registered deaths.

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