Drink and Drugs News DDN September 2019 | Page 4

News HIGHEST DRUG DEATH TOLL FOR ENGLAND AND WALES – AGAIN REGISTRATIONS OF DEATHS relating to poisoning (overdose) in England and Wales have once again broken previous records, according to figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS). There were 4,359 drug poisoning deaths in 2018, up from 3,756 the previous year (DDN, September 2018, page 4). This represents a ‘statistically significant’ increase of 16 per cent, the highest since records began in 1993. The figures follow the announcement in July of another set of record drug-fatalities north of the border, at 1,187 – the fifth consecutive Scottish increase and up almost 30 per cent from 2017’s figure of 934 (DDN, July/August 2018, page 4). The Scottish Government has since announced an additional £20m funding over two years for the country’s drug services. Two-thirds of the fatalities in England and Wales were related to drug misuse, with male deaths increasing significantly from 89.6 per million males in 2017 to 105.4 in 2018, while the female rate increased for the ninth consecutive year to 47.5 per million. While more than half of all drug poisonings involved an opiate, deaths involving cocaine have now risen for seven years in a row and almost doubled between 2015 and 2018 – to 637. Fentanyl deaths, however, remained stable at 74. There were also 125 deaths involving NPS, once again a ‘statistically significant’ increase from the 61 recorded in 2017 and a return to 2016’s levels, which saw 123. Synthetic cannabinoids contributed to 60 of the NPS-related deaths, up from 24 in 2017. As in previous years, the North East reported significantly higher drug-related death rates than all other English regions. Transform called the deaths ‘an avoidable tragedy’, while Release said government inaction was a significant contributory factor. ‘For the last seven years we have seen drug-related deaths increase year on year and every year we have called on the government to take action, to scale up funding for drug treatment, to support overdose prevention sites, to fund drug checking facilities, and to expand heroin assisted ‘every year we have called on the government to take action, to scale up funding for drug treatment... each year they have ignored us.’ niAmh eAStwood treatment,’ said executive director Niamh Eastwood. ‘Each year they have ignored us.’ ‘Drug-related deaths are preventable deaths,’ added Turning Point’s director for public health and substance misuse, Jay Stewart. ‘Investment in high quality, free to access, evidence-based treatment services is critical, not only to protect communities from drug-related crime and anti-social behaviour but to save lives. Nationally, funding has been reduced by 18 per cent over the past five years and this reduction needs to be reversed.’ Deaths related to drug poisoning in England and Wales: 2018 registrations at www.ons.gov.uk DELAYED GRATIFICATION ALCOHOL COMPANIES WILL FINALLY INCLUDE THE CMO’S REVISED DRINKING GUIDELINES on bottles and cans three and a half years after their introduction. Portman Group members – which include Diageo, Barcardi and Carlsberg – will now voluntarily display the 14 unit guidelines on their packaging. Institute of Alcohol Studies chief executive Katherine Severi said that it was a victory for the public that the guidelines would appear ‘after three years of delaying tactics by alcohol companies, and at the last minute before a government deadline to comply. But while this marks a half step forward, it shows that the current system of alcohol industry self- regulation is failing consumers.’ A victory for the public 4 | drinkanddrugsnews | September 2019 KAtherine Severi RIGHTS VIOLATIONS THE UN HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL should open an investigation into Rodrigo Duterte’s ‘war on drugs’, says an Amnesty International report. The Philippine president’s violent anti-drugs campaign should be investigated for gross human rights violations and ‘possible crimes against humanity’, according to They just kill. While the country’s government had acknowledged at least 6,600 killings by police, ‘evidence points to many thousands more killed by unknown armed persons with likely links to the police’, Amnesty states. ‘It is time for the UN, starting with its Human Rights Council, to act decisively to hold President Duterte and his government accountable,’ said Amnesty regional director Nicholas Bequelin. Report at www.amnesty.org.uk CYNICAL EXPLOITATION CHILDREN AS YOUNG AS SEVEN are being exploited by county lines gangs, says a Children’s Society report. While those in the 14-17 age range are the most likely to be exploited, children of primary school age are being ‘increasingly targeted’, the charity warns. The number of 10-17-year-olds arrested outside London for intent to supply drugs increased by 49 per cent between 2015-16 and 2017-18 to more than 500, while respondents described seven and eight-year-olds receiving support from the authorities. ‘Children are being cynically exploited with the promise of money, drugs, status and affection and controlled using threats, violence and sexual abuse, leaving them traumatised and living in fear,’ said Children’s Society chief executive Nick Roseveare. Counting lives: responding to children who are criminally exploited at www.childrenssociety.org.uk EFFECTIVE IMPLEMENTATION MUP IS BEING IMPLEMENTED EFFECTIVELY, according to NHS Health Scotland. Levels of compliance among licensed premises are high, says Evaluating the impact of minimum unit pricing in Scotland on harmful drinkers. The report, which is based on interviews with trading standards officers, police and others, found that even where issues of non- compliance were identified these were ‘minor and swiftly resolved’. Pubs, clubs and restaurants – which charge higher prices than off-sales premises – had been largely unaffected, and there was also no reported increase in incidences of unlicensed or illegal alcohol activity since MUP’s introduction in May last year. Report at http://www.healthscotland.scot/ www.drinkanddrugsnews.com