Drug deaths in Yorkshire remain at ten-year high as figures reveal three people died every two days last year in region
Figures released by the Office of National Statistics yesterday showed a surge in the number of women who died from overdoses or substance poisoning in England and Wales last year, but men still account for two thirds (67.5 per cent) of all deaths nationally.
Other concerning trends show a steep rise in the number of cocaine-related deaths last year, while those who live in deprived areas are 5.5 times more likely to die as a result of drugs or alcohol.
Despite this, one charity worker from an addiction recovery service said there was still a "huge misconception" about people with drug addictions, and that he had seen "people turn up in Porsches and walk in off the streets" seeking help.
"Nobody wakes up in the morning and decides they are going to be a heroin addict," said Lee Wilson, who is Operations Director at Forward's Leeds branch.
Mr Wilson said that there were a number of factors which made a person more vulnerable to drug addictions and alcoholism, but that ultimately addiction is a public health issue and does not discriminate.
"People in deprived areas are more susceptible," he added.
"Drugs can be more available and you are more likely to know someone using them. Unemployment plays a factor as you have more free time available.
"There is also poorer health generally in deprived areas, but at the other end of the scale people who are affluent may be more likely to drink too much or take drugs because they can afford to. And if everyone around you is doing it, that makes it seem more acceptable."
There were 76 deaths caused by drugs last year in Leeds, while in Sheffield there were 43 and in Hull there were 35.
Elsewhere in Yorkshire, Wakefield had 62 drug-related deaths, Bradford had 35, Doncaster had 39 and Rotherham had 33. There were also 19 deaths in Scarborough, 28 in Barnsley, 22 in York, 30 in Kirklees and 16 in Harrogate.
The figures do not cover drugs deaths which occurred since the onset of the pandemic, although Mr Wilson said the service had seen a 10 per cent upturn in people coming to them for help since the beginning of lockdown.
He added that many were worried that, while most festivals and parties had been cancelled this year, there may be a spike in "people going crazy" and abusing drugs and alcohol in the future when events can go ahead.
Two men are due to be sentenced at Teesside Crown Court next month over the death of Leah Heyes, a 15-year-old from Northallerton who died after taking ecstasy in May last year.
Last month, 15-year-old Josh Reeson from York died after police said he took illegal drugs. Six people aged between 14 and 37 were arrested on suspicion of drugs supply offences and the investigation remains ongoing.
Despite this, the ONS figures showed those aged in their 40s were statistically most likely to die as a result of drugs.
Nuno Albuquerque, from UK Addiction Treatment, said: “We must remember that these aren't just numbers; they're someone's mother, father, child or friend who has lost their lives to drugs and we can't stress enough the value of investing in the treatment of addiction.
“2020 has proven to be a difficult year for many. Some will undoubtedly turn to misusing drugs as a coping mechanism. Our fear is that these figures could tip off the scale in next year’s report unless councils here take proactive, preventative action today in order to save lives tomorrow.”
The Department for Health and Social Care was contacted for comment.
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