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Rise in cocaine deaths helps push fatal drug poisonings to record high

Statistics show 3,744 deaths involving both legal and illegal drugs were registered in England and Wales last year.

Drug poisoning deaths have surged to a new record level, driven in part by a jump in fatalities involving cocaine.

Official statistics show 3,744 deaths involving both legal and illegal drugs were registered in England and Wales last year – the highest number since comparable records started in 1993.

Of those, 2,593 (69%) – or more than two-thirds – were classed as drug misuse deaths.

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Deaths from drug-related poisoning in England and Wales (PA graphic)

The figures, published by the Office for National Statistics (ONS), show there were 371 deaths involving cocaine – a rise of 16% on 2015.

Statisticians said rising levels in the purity of cocaine could be one explanation for the increase in deaths involving the drug.

Estimates based on the Crime Survey for England and Wales indicate that the proportion of adults aged 16 to 59 using the drug in powder form has remained broadly steady at just over 2%.

The ONS report said: “The National Crime Agency reports that there was a significant increase in both crack and powder cocaine purity at all levels in 2016, including user-level, which may partly explain the increase in deaths relating to cocaine.”

Cocaine-related mortality rates have been increasing year on year, reaching a record high of 6.4 deaths per one million population.

The majority of fatalities linked to the drug occur in men aged 30 to 49, the figures show.

Evidence to distinguish the type of cocaine taken is rarely provided on death certificates.

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From Belfast Telegraph