Almost 100 people died from drug poisoning in Sunderland in the past two years, figures reveal

Nearly 100 people died from drug poisoning in Sunderland over the last two years, according to new figures.

Sunday, 18th August 2019, 08:00 am
Updated Monday, 19th August 2019, 10:11 am
There were almost 100 drug deaths in Sunderland in the past two years

This week, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) released data on drug-related deaths between 2016 and 2018.

Sunderland’s death toll was 93 – the third highest in the North East behind County Durham (153) and Newcastle (108).

Since 2013, recorded drug deaths on Wearside have also jumped from 67 to 93 – a rise of nearly 40%.

To tackle the risks around drug misuse, Sunderland City Council bosses have pledged to continue funding specialist services.

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Director of public health at the council, Gillian Gibson, said: “We recognise that people who experience problems with drugs continue to be at significant risk of ill-health and, in the worst case, death.

“As such, we are continuing to take measures to provide support and prevent harm.

“We remain committed to funding substance misuse services and recently committed to maintaining the budget we currently have for the next six to eight years.”

Sunderland’s mortality rate for drug deaths stands at 11.9 per 100,000 population – slightly below the North East rate of 12.1.

Since the ONS figures were published, addiction experts have raised concerns about rising deaths across the North East as a whole.

This includes a 30% rise in drug poisoning deaths in the last five years with the percentage of men dying from drugs rocketing from 473 to 636 and women from 217 to 267.

Health firm UK Addiction Treatment (UKAT) have since blamed budget cuts to drug and alcohol treatment services for the rise in deaths.

Managing director of UKAT, Eytan Alexander, said the North East figures were “saddening but unsurprising”.

“We’ve highlighted the drastic reduction in budget cuts to substance misuse services every year since 2013 and unfortunately, these figures now show the impact this is having on the most vulnerable people living across the North East.” he said.

In 2018/19, 1,865 adults received support from substance misuse services in Sunderland – with 833 people alone presenting over the period.

Last month, the council’s ruling cabinet also agreed to launch a review of the services for adults in Sunderland – including support services for carers.

The process aims to secure the future of the service for a minimum of five years from July 2020.

Public health boss Gillian Gibson added: “Our £4.7 million budget to tackle drug and alcohol misuse has remained constant for the last four years despite the budgetary constraints and pressures that all local authorities have been facing.

“We are also working closely with a range of partner organisations to continually seek and develop solutions that help prevent drug related deaths.”