At Phoenix we know how painful it is to lose a loved one or family member as a result of drugs… a brother, sister, son, daughter, mother, father, partner, friend. The stigma people who use drugs experience, often extends to their families and has an impact on how families are able to grieve and mourn their loved one. Our thoughts are with everyone who has experienced loss this year and those affected by the deaths being announced today.
4561 people have died in 2020 of drug use. That is an increase of 4% from last year, a shocking 60% increase in the last decade and the highest level since records began. These figures do not include the vast majority of people who will have found it harder to access help during the Covid pandemic and we fear the numbers published next year will be even worse.
Many of those deaths could have been prevented if more people were able to readily access treatment. More people would come into treatment if a wider range of treatment options were available across England.
The announcements of additional funding in England this year have been welcome. However they have been too little too late for the people whose deaths have been recorded in this report.
We still see more people dying in the north of England than in the south. The stigmatising explanations for the rate of death being in the older age group doesn’t excuse that people in long term addiction aren’t being able to access the long term help they need to reduce risk.
No longer can the Government claim they don’t know what to do to address the continued increase in deaths. The Dame Carol Black review has set out clearly and in excruciating detail what is needed for a whole system change to drug treatment. This is not a time to pick and choose from her 32 recommendations. This is a time to listen to the experts, take the advice asked for, and invest in treatment. Only then will we ensure vital healthcare for people who use drugs is available ( in line with clinical guidance) to everyone in the country, regardless of where they live or how much money they have. To do anything else is to deny the heartbreak of the thousands of families who have experienced a loss due to a treatable condition.