There were eight total deaths by drug poisoning in Arun District in 2021, according to figures released by the Office for National Statistics.
Although that’s not any kind of record, it does mark an increase on the seven deaths recorded in 2020, and puts Arun District on par with Chichester, also at eight deaths, and far above Adur, at just three deaths.
In fact, with 49 deaths reported in all of West Sussex (itself a five year high), that makes Arun District one of the biggest contributors in the county, beaten only by Worthing, where 11 deaths were recorded.
On a national level, drug deaths have hit similarly high rates. 4,859 deaths were reported in England and Wales. At a 6.2 per cent increase on the previous year, this marks the ninth consecutive annual rise in England and Wales. Figures cover drug abuse and dependence, fatal accidents, suicides and complications involving controlled and non-controlled drugs, prescription and over-the-counter medications.
The Office for National Statistics said the trend over the past decade has been driven by opiates, as well as other substances, like cocaine. Experts have suggested that therev could be an ageing cohort of drug users experiencing the effects of long-term use and becoming more susceptible to a fatal overdose. New trends involving specific drugs, such as benzodiazepines, alongside heroin and morphine, might also have contributed.
Responding to the national picture, a government spokesperson said:
“Our landmark drug strategy will help rebuild drug treatment and recovery services to better support people through recovery, as well as tackling the criminal supply chains which fuel illegal drug markets. This will help to prevent nearly 1,000 deaths, deliver over 54,500 new treatment places – a 19% increase on current numbers – and support 24,000 more people into recovery from substance dependency.
"“This funding is additional to the annual public health grant spend and builds on the £80 million put into treatment services in 2021 which worked to decrease drug-related deaths by helping services distribute more naloxone, which can help reverse opiate overdoses.”