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National Statistics
Publication, Part of

Statistics on Drug Misuse, England, 2019

National statistics
Publication Date:
Geographic Coverage:
England, Wales
Geographical Granularity:
Local Authorities, Regions
Date Range:
01 Apr 2018 to 31 Mar 2019

Part 2: Deaths related to poisoning by drug misuse

Drug misuse and drug dependence are known causes of premature mortality. Drug-related deaths occur in a variety of circumstances, each with different social and policy implications.

This part presents information on the number of deaths that can be attributed to poisoning by drug misuse.  Deaths were included where the underlying cause was due to drug poisoning and where a drug controlled under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 was mentioned on the death certificate.

The data source is the Office for National Statistics (ONS) who provide further details on the definition of a drug misuse death.

The figures presented here are for deaths registered each year, rather than deaths occurring each year. Almost all drug-related deaths are certified by a coroner. Due to the length of time it takes a coroner to complete an inquest, about half of drug-related deaths registered in a particular year will have actually occurred prior to that year.

Nevertheless, general trends in drug-related deaths are broadly equivalent, regardless of whether the data is analysed by year of occurrence or year of registration.

The data presented in this part covers England and Wales combined.  The number of deaths for England only is available from the ONS source data.  However, as all breakdowns in the ONS data are for England and Wales combined, the overall England and Wales figure is used througout for consistency.

The latest data is for 2018.


Deaths by year

For each year in the last decade, around two-thirds of all drug poisoning deaths were from drug misuse. In 2018 there were 2,917 deaths relating to drug misuse, out of a total of 4,359 drug poisoning deaths.

The rate of deaths relating to drug misuse in 2018 was 50.9 deaths per million people; an increase compared to 43.9 deaths per million people in 2017.

The rate of male drug misuse deaths is over two and a half times greater than the female rate.

Chart showing rate of deaths per million people related to poisoning from drug misuse by year


Deaths by age

The rate of deaths relating to drug misuse among those aged 40 to 49 years was significantly higher than that of any other age group in 2018.

Those aged between 40 and 49 years had a drug misuse rate of 125.7 deaths per million people; higher than that observed in 2017 for the same age group, when there was a rate of 102.8 deaths per million people.

Chart showing rate of deaths related to poisoning from drug misuse by age


Deaths by underlying cause of death

81% (2,353) of deaths related to drug misuse were due to accidental poisoning by drugs, medicaments and biological substances.

There were 419 suicides related to drug misuse.

Chart showing deaths related to poisoning from drug misuse by cause


For more data relating to this section:

Last edited: 19 November 2019 10:59 am