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The root cause is a key priority as drug deaths in Fenland hit a record high

Drug-related deaths in Fenland have reached a record level over the last three years, figures reveal, and now work is being undertaken to identify why.

Change Grow Live, which offers a free and confidential drug and alcohol service for adults including offenders, family members, carers and others affected by the issue in Fenland, is working closely with the local coroner’s officer to understand local risk factors.

Gaby Price, director of Change Grow Live, said: “One of our key priorities is to address the root causes of drug-related deaths.

Deaths caused by drug use have reached record levels in Fenland, according to new figures.
Deaths caused by drug use have reached record levels in Fenland, according to new figures.

“We are working closely with key partners, including the local coroner’s office, to understand our local risk factors.”

Her comments come as latest figures from the Office for National Statistics, which provides data on deaths related to drug poisoning for three-year periods, showed Fenland had 31 drug related deaths between 2016 and 2018 – the most since records began in 2001-2003.

It means 11 per 100,000 people died in this way in the last three years.

The deaths relate to poisoning from a variety of illegal and legal drugs, including prescription and over-the-counter medicines.

Deaths caused by drug use have reached record levels in Fenland, according to new figures (15489044)
Deaths caused by drug use have reached record levels in Fenland, according to new figures (15489044)

The figures also count deaths from drug abuse but also include those from accidents, suicides, and health complications arising from drug use.

In Fenland, 22 deaths were down to misuse, meaning they involved illegal drugs, or were as a result of drug abuse or dependence.

Across England and Wales, 4,359 deaths from drug poisoning were recorded in 2018 – two-thirds of these resulted from misuse. It represents the highest total since comparable records began in 1993.

Ms Price said: “The increase in the number of drug-related deaths in Fenland sadly reflects the national trend.

“Each and every life lost to drugs is a tragedy that has a profound impact on families and communities.

“Drug-related deaths are linked to a range of complex factors, including chronic physical and mental ill health.

“These require interventions from multiple organisations, including Change Grow Live, as well as our partners, including Cambridgeshire County Council and local health services.

“We continue to prioritise the distribution of naloxone kits, which have saved many lives through reversing the effects of an opioid/heroin overdose.

“We also encourage patients to access a wide range of services to ensure that they receive the help and support to help them cope with the complex issues, which many of them face.”

The Transform Drug Policy Foundation called deaths from illegal drug use an “avoidable tragedy” and accused the government of “decimating treatment funding”.

Dr James Nicholls, chief executive of theTransform Drug Policy Foundation, said: “These deaths are an avoidable tragedy – and each one represents a brother, sister, parent or friend who has left loved ones behind.

“After six years of record deaths, the Government must act, with a clear focus on keeping people alive.”

He called for supervised drug consumption rooms, heroin prescribing clinics and an end to the criminalisation of drug use.

A government spokesman said drug misuse was at similar levels to a decade ago, but added: “We are absolutely committed to reducing it and the harms it causes.”

The spokesman said the Government has commissioned an independent review to look at issues including the system of support and enforcement around drug misuse.

For more information about how to get help locally, visit: www.changegrowlive.org/content/change-grow-live-cambridgeshire-cambridge or call 0300 555 0101, option 3 for Wisbech/Fenland.

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