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Drug poisoning deaths a 'preventable' tragedy, as numbers hit record level

PUBLISHED: 16:00 17 August 2019 | UPDATED: 17:45 17 August 2019

Opiates accounted for the most drug-related deaths across the country last year  Picture: GETTY IMAGES/ISTOCKPHOTO

Opiates accounted for the most drug-related deaths across the country last year Picture: GETTY IMAGES/ISTOCKPHOTO

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Record numbers of drug-related deaths across Suffolk have been called a 'preventable' tragedy.

Registered deaths from drug poisoning in Suffolk - and across the country - hit their highest level since records began in 1993.

The Office for National Statistics reported 124 drug poisoning deaths registered in Suffolk last year - an increase of more than a quarter since 2010.

More than two thirds (80) were down to drug misuse.

Opiates were responsible for the most UK drug deaths, followed by cocaine and antidepressants.

Detective Chief Inspector Jeff Yaxley said it remained a priority for Suffolk police to maintain a hostile environment for drug dealers  Picture: PHIL MORLEYDetective Chief Inspector Jeff Yaxley said it remained a priority for Suffolk police to maintain a hostile environment for drug dealers Picture: PHIL MORLEY

Dr Emily Finch, of the Royal College of Psychiatrists' addictions faculty, said the rise was fuelled by service cuts and shifting from harm reduction to abstinence-based recovery.

Jay Stewart, Director for Public Health and Substance Misuse at Turning Point, which the county council commissions to provide drug and alcohol treatment services, said: "Drug-related deaths are preventable deaths. Investment in high quality, free to access, evidence-based treatment services is critical, not only to protect communities from drug related crime and anti-social behaviour but to save lives.

"Long term heroin users with poor health, who frequently use a cocktail of drugs and alcohol, are most at risk. For this group, the best way to prevent deaths is to get people into treatment.

"Turning Point works hard to let people know we are here if they want help and we will fast track anyone identified as being particularly vulnerable and at high risk into treatment. However, we know that in many areas the resources aren't available to invest in reaching out to people who need help rather than waiting for them to come into services."

Most drug deaths were down to misuse  Picture: GETTY IMAGES/ISTOCKPHOTOMost drug deaths were down to misuse Picture: GETTY IMAGES/ISTOCKPHOTO

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Mr Stewart said wide-scale distribution of naloxone - an opioid overdose antidote credited with saving lives - was also key.

Turning Point has offered more than 800 kits in the last year - with more than half taken up.

Detective Chief Inspector Jeff Yaxley said it remained a priority for police to maintain a hostile environment for dealers, including those linked to 'county lines' distribution.

Drug deaths are on the rise in Suffolk and across the countryDrug deaths are on the rise in Suffolk and across the country

He added: "Our objectives are to identify dealers, and to disrupt and dismantle their activity; to identify those being exploited by their vulnerability, and to continue to work in partnership with other agencies, and gain sufficient intelligence and evidence, so those responsible are bought to justice and convicted."

The Suffolk Recovery Network, run by Turning Point, provides treatment to anyone wishing to address their use of drugs or alcohol.

Turning Point offers a comprehensive assessment, followed by a tailored recovery plan, which may include group and one-to-one work, clinical intervention, support to access mutual aid, education, goal setting and harm reduction.

Suffolk Family Carers runs a 'Navigating Roads to Recovery' course for people to gain better understanding of a loved one's addiction, as well as skills to cope and maintain mental wellbeing.

Iceni works with families to address mistrust and harm associated with addiction.

The under-25 service offers group work sessions to help make sure young people have access to unbiased education and become more resilient and less reliant on drugs or alcohol to cope in the future.

Suffolk County Council Public Health also works with partners on a Drug Related Death Strategic Group.

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