Tox Tuesday: Report shows drug hospitalizations, deaths up in England and Wales

A new survey published by the United Kingdom’s National Health Service (NHS) shows that more people are being hospitalized for drug-related reasons, including for mental health treatment and for overdoses.

According to the survey, which was conducted over 12 months between 2016 and 2017, there’s been a 40% increase in hospital admissions with a “primary diagnosis of poisoning by illicit drugs” since 2006–2007. In the same time period, there have been 12% more hospital admissions for “drug-related mental health and behavioral disorders” (but also 12% fewer than the year before).

“People with both mental health and substance misuse issues can find it extremely difficult to access mental health services,” said addiction advocate Karen Tyrell. “Getting people connected with community services at an earlier stage could prevent hospital admissions.”

Drug-related deaths increased by 58% since 2006, up 5% from 2015. NHS says this is the highest level since records began in 1993. There were 2,593 registered deaths in England and Wales related to drug misuse in 2016.

It seems contradictory, then, that overall fewer adults are reportedly using drugs in the past decade. In 2006–2007, 10% of adults had admitted to using illicit drugs in the last year, but in the recent survey, only 8.5% of adults aged 16–59 reported drug use.

Worryingly, drug use from teens and preteens has shot up. In the recent survey, 24% of young people reported having taken drugs at any point in their lives, up from 15% in a 2014 report. Older teenagers were more likely to have engaged in drug use; 11% of 11-year-olds to 37% of 15-year-olds.

Marijuana was the most common drug reported in the survey.

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