On 3rd August 2022 the Office of National Statistics published some concerning statistics about deaths in England and Wales caused by addiction/drug poisoning in 2021. Key points were:

  • 4,859 deaths related to drug poisoning were registered in 2021 in England and Wales, equivalent to a rate of 84.4 deaths per million people; this is 6.2% higher than the rate recorded in 2020 (79.5 deaths per million).

  • Among males, there were 115.1 drug poisoning deaths registered per million in 2021 (3,275 deaths), compared with 54.1 deaths per million among females (1,584 deaths).

  • 3,060 drug poisoning deaths registered in 2021 were identified as drug misuse, accounting for 53.2 deaths per million people.

  • Rates of drug misuse death continue to be elevated among those born in the 1970s, often referred to as “Generation X”, with the highest rate in those aged 45 to 49 years.

  • Approximately half of all drug poisoning deaths registered in 2021 involved an opiate (45.7%; 2,219 deaths).

  • 840 deaths involved cocaine, which is 8.1% more than 2020 and more than seven times the amount recorded a decade ago (112 deaths in 2011).

  • The North East of England continues to have the highest rate of deaths relating to drug poisoning and drug misuse (163.4 deaths per million people and 104.1 per million, respectively); London had the lowest rate for drug poisonings (47.6 deaths per million people), and the East of England had the lowest rate for drug misuse (27.4 per million).

The cause of death is reported as drug misuse or drug poisoning (overdose). We know that bereavement can be behind many social and health crisis including crime, school dropout rates, debt and relationship breakdown. We don't know, but can guess that bereavement (unresolved grief in particular) will almost certainly be one of the reasons why people start taking drugs and alcohol in the first place to numb the pain of their grief, sadly leading to addiction and sometimes death. This is why finding timely support is so important.  

See our page on addiction to find out more  about where to get support if you have been affected. You can also read the full ONS report HERE

If you have been affected by a death from addiction, overdose or poisoning or know someone who has, you may find this article useful. How to look after yourself and others when bereaved by addiction.