THE number of people admitted with drug poisoning to hospitals in England has risen for a third year in a row, new NHS figures show.
It comes as experts blame a surge in cocaine and sleeping pills – particularly in young people.
New data from NHS Digital, published today, revealed there were 18,053 hospital admissions for poisoning by drug misuse in 2018-19 – up six per cent from 17,031 the previous year and 7.5 per cent on 2016-17.
It is the second highest number of admissions for drug poisoning since 2012-13, with the figures peaking at 18,128 in 2015-16.
The data also found there were 7,376 hospital admissions for drug-related mental and behavioural disorders – 14 per cent less than in 2015-16 but still 30 per cent higher than the 5,668 in 2008-09.
Experts warn the rise, especially among young people, is down to “cheap cocaine”.
Prof Ian Hamilton, a senior lecturer in addiction and mental health at the University of York, told The Sun Online: “It is concerning that there has been another increase in young people presenting to treatment with problems relating to cocaine.
“This is significant as the rise is taking place when overall there are fewer young people entering treatment, not because there are fewer young people developing problems with drugs like cocaine but because funding for young people’s drug treatment has been slashed.
There was a tripling of young people who had problems with benzodiazepines, this reflects how cheap and easy these drugs are to obtain for young people
Prof Ian Hamilton
“This means those young people who do get into these shrinking services have much more serious problems as shown by the rise in young people reporting mental health problems – from 27 per cent to 32 per cent.
“Compared to 2016 there was a tripling of young people who had problems with benzodiazepines, this reflects how cheap and easy these drugs are to obtain for young people, often costing no more than a few pence.”
Campaigners said the statistics showed that the current approach to tackling drug misuse was not working and called for the next government to treat people with “compassion and dignity” instead of punishing them.
Drug and alcohol charity Addaction policy researcher Robin Pollard said: “With drug-related deaths at record levels, it’s clear our current approach to problematic drug use isn’t working.
“Trying to arrest our way out of the issue has been a monumental failure and the next government must follow the evidence, treating people with compassion and dignity, not punishment.
End Of The Line
Cocaine use is reaching epidemic levels in Britain, with the UK branded the ‘Coke capital’ of Europe.
Use has doubled in the last five years, and with young people the numbers are even worse.
A staggering one in five 16-to-24-year-olds have taken cocaine in the last year.
That’s why The Sun has launched its End Of The Line campaign, calling for more awareness around the drug.
Cocaine use can cause mental health problems such as anxiety and paranoia, while doctors have linked the rise in cheap, potent coke to an increase in suicide rates.
People from all walks of life, from builders and labourers to celebrities like Jeremy McConnell – who is backing our campaign – have fallen foul of its lure.
It’s an issue that is sweeping the UK and, unless its tackled now, means a mental health crisis is imminent.
“At the same time, there needs to be investment into drug and alcohol treatment to allow services to offer the intense, person-centred support we know works, with a particular focus on the UK’s most deprived areas.
“However we shouldn’t stop there. Other evidence-based approaches such as safer consumption rooms, drug testing facilities and heroin-assisted treatment should also be an option where needed.
“It’s time to put people’s well-being and safety first.”
Earlier this year, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) revealed there were 4,359 deaths from drug poisoning recorded in England and Wales in 2018 – the highest number since records began in 1993.
The ONS said it was also the highest annual increase since records began, rising 16 per cent (603 deaths) from 2017.
Two-thirds (2,917) of these were related to drug misuse, it added.
NHS Digital said this was a 17 per cent increase on the 2,503 deaths related to poisoning by drug misuse in 2017 and 46 per cent higher than the 2,004 recorded 10 years ago in 2008.
The new NHS Digital report found that more than half the poisoning by drug misuse admissions in 2018 were due to so-called “other opioids”, which includes drugs such as codeine and morphine.
A total of 9,486 admissions were due to other opioids, while the next highest was 2,568 for “other synthetic narcotics”, followed by 1,820 for heroin.
Mr Pollard, from Addaction, said: “There needs to be a national push on the opioid overdose reversal drug Naloxone.
“It’s a safe, effective, life-saving tool and we need to get people trained and carrying Naloxone all over the country.”