More than ten people a day died from drug-related deaths in England and Wales last year:

Increasing rates from cocaine and fentanyl, rates from heroin and morphine still remain high

Simon Collins, HIV i-Base

On 6 August 2018, the latest annual data was published relating to drug-related deaths in England and Wales. This report from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) is predominantly a register of fatalities from overdose or poisoning from legal and non-legal drugs.

Overall, 3756 cases were registered in 2017, compared to 3744 in 2016 and 3674 in 2015.

More than half of these deaths (1985/3756) were related to opiates – including heroin/morphine (1164),  methadone (367), tramadol (385), fentanyl and related analogues (106) and cannabis (29)

Cocaine-related deaths increased from 371 in 2016 to 432 in 2018. Antidepressants were listed as the cause of death in 484 cases.

New psychoactive compounds were listed for 61 cases, included 17 people for GHB and 24 people for synthetic cannabinoids.

A press statement from Release, a campaigning organisation for drug reform, highlighted the continued increase linked to cocaine and fentanyl, increasing by 16% and 80% respectively, both the highest over the 25 years that data has been collected. They highlight the figures as a national crisis that requires a coordinated, national public health response. [2]

Release call for changes in government policy to decriminalise drug possession, to allow life-saving drug consumption rooms, scaled up access to naloxone and to reinstate budget cuts to essential drug-related services. England and Wales have one of the highest rates of drug-related deaths in the EU. It is more than 17 times higher than Portugal, which decriminalised all personal drug possession in 2001.


  1. Deaths related to drug poisoning in England and Wales: 2017 registrations.  
  2. Release press release. Drug-related deaths in England & Wales reach highest figure on record, Government policy directly contributing to public health crisis: Deaths relating to cocaine and fentanyl highest on record. (06 August 2018).


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