Cocaine death toll up 20% in a year: Fatalities from all illegal drugs at an 8-year high

08:05 by Editor · 0 Post a comment on AAWR

Deaths from cocaine are up by a fifth in a year, figures show.

The tragic toll lays bare the lie that it is a safe, middle-class 'dinner party' drug.

Some 235 deaths were linked to cocaine last year, up from 196 in 2007. This is the fifth year in a row that the number of victims has risen.

Deaths from all illegal drugs have also hit an eight-year high in England and Wales.

Many of those dying are middle-aged, with the steepest rise among people in their 40s.

With a line of cocaine now often costing less than a glass of wine, there has been a huge increase in the number of users.

About a million Britons are thought to take the drug - up a quarter in a year.

Martin Barnes, chief executive of the charity DrugScope, said: 'Every drug-related death is a tragedy and many could have been avoided. It is extremely concerning that deaths related to illegal drugs are at their highest since 2001.

'The steady rise in deaths linked with cocaine use underlines the drug's harm at a time when use of the drug is again increasing, particularly among 16 to 24-year-olds.

'The fall in the price of the drug and evidence of its increased availability may be reasons for this increase.'

There were 1,738 deaths linked to all illegal drugs in 2008, up 8 per cent.

As well as the ready supply of cheap drugs, experts have blamed celebrity users for making cocaine appear glamorous. Government policy has also come under fire with a UN report naming Britain the cocaine capital of Europe earlier this year.

Norman Lamb, the Liberal Democrat health spokesman, said: 'These are horrifying statistics. The toll of damage from drugs is immense and the cost to the NHS is enormous.

'The Government's punitive policies and heavy-handed rhetoric on drugs are failing.

'Ministers must make sure that schools and public services work together to make sure that the message gets out that drugs kill. Ministers have been very good at talking tough when it comes to drugs, but this isn't working.

'They must urgently rethink their strategy before even more lives are lost.'

In 2004 there were 154 deaths from cocaine abuse, including crack cocaine. The latest Office for National Statistics figures show that this toll has risen by more than 50 per cent in four years. Heroin and morphine account for almost a third of all drug-related deaths.

Mr Barnes said: 'The fastest rise in drug-related deaths is among older users and heroin remains the most commonly linked substance.

'This trend could reflect the fact that the heroin using population is ageing, with fewer younger people using the drug.

'While it is right to focus on drug use among young people, the need is for public health and overdose prevention interventions across all age groups.' continues here

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