Cocaine deaths up by 20%

Fatalities from all illegal drugs at eight-year high

Deaths from cocaine are up by a fifth in a year, figures show. Some 235 deaths were linked to cocaine last year, up from 196 in 2007. This is the fifth year in a row that the number of victims has risen.

Deaths from all illegal drugs have also hit an eight-year high in England and Wales. There were 1,738 deaths linked to all illegal drugs in 2008, up 8%. Many of those dying are middle-aged, with the steepest rise among people in their 40s.

With a line of cocaine now often costing less than a glass of wine, there has been a huge increase in the number of users. About a million Britons are thought to take the drug – up a quarter in a year.

Martin Barnes, chief executive of the charity DrugScope, said: ‘The steady rise in deaths linked with cocaine use underlines the drug‘s harm at a time when use of the drug is again increasing, particularly among 16 to 24-year-olds.

‘The fall in the price of the drug and evidence of its increased availability may be reasons for this increase.’

Norman Lamb, the Liberal Democrat health spokesman, said: ‘These are horrifying statistics. The toll of damage from drugs is immense and the cost to the NHS is enormous. The Government’s punitive policies and heavy-handed rhetoric on drugs are failing.’
 
In addition, deaths from the ‘liquid Ecstasy’ drug GHB doubled from nine to 20 in 2008. Deaths involving antidepressants rose 14% to 381.


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