Press Release

For immediate release

6th August 2018



Official Stats: UK Government Fuels Near Record Drug Deaths

Rose Humphries of the Anyone’s Child Project, who lost two sons to heroin overdoses says;

“It upsets me to see the figures for drug deaths at record levels year after year. The government is complicit in these deaths because it will not try the successful measures that work in other countries to reduce drug deaths and crime. Those of us in the Anyone’s Child campaign can see the evidence of what works –  including legally regulating drugs. Why can’t the government? Behind each figure in these latest statistics was a real person, a person who once had hopes and dreams – as did my two sons who were killed by illegal heroin – but they are treated as collateral damage in the government’s drug policies. I am so sad for all the families who are left in grief.”

Rose’s Story: Heroin killed two of my sons and I want it legally regulated from Moore Lavan Films on Vimeo.

The Office of National Statistics (ONS) has released the latest drug related death statistics for England and Wales. And they make for shocking reading.

At 2503, illegal drug-related deaths have now been at or near record levels for 5 years in a row. (Statistically no significant change from 2016’s 2596). The ONS defines accidental drug related deaths as avoidable.

  • 2503 deaths p/a = 7 a day, 48 a week, 209 a month – and more than road deaths.
  • At 43.9 deaths per million of the population, England and Wales’ drug death rate is now over 11 times that of Portugal, at 3.86 deaths per million, and more than double the European average (20.3 per million)
  • Cocaine rose for the 6th year in a row to a new record 432 in 2017 (cf. 371 in 2016).
  • Fentanyl deaths increased by 29%, to a record 75 in 2017 (cf. 58 in 2016).
  • Deaths from Ecstasy fell slightly to 56 (cf. 63 in 2016).

Martin Powell, Transform Drug Policy Foundation said;

“After five years of record or near record drug related deaths, the UK Government has nowhere left to hide. They are responsible for vulnerable people dying in droves, because they are blocking, or refusing to fund, measures proven to save lives in other countries. No one has ever died from an overdose in a supervised drug consumption room or heroin prescribing clinic, anywhere. In Portugal – where drug use is decriminalised – the drug death rate is less than a tenth of ours. So Government claims that these deaths are all the result of an aging population of drug users is a lie.

The Government must fully fund drug treatment, stop criminalising people who use drugs, and allow supervised drug consumption rooms now. Longer term, all political parties should back legal regulation of the drug market to take it out of the hands of criminals, save lives, reduce crime, and protect our communities.”


Martin Powell, Head of Campaigns, 0787 567 9301

Jane Slater, Anyone’s Child Programme Manager, 0117 325 0295


  1. Transform Drug Policy Foundation is a UK and Mexico based think tank campaigning for the legal regulation of drugs
  2. Read more about Rose’s story at Anyone’s Child: Families for Safer Drug Control  Anyone’s Child is a Transform Project
  3. The ONS 2017 UK drug related deaths statistics are available from
  4. There were 1792 deaths on UK roads in 2016
  5. Portugal and Switzerland have aging drug users – but they are not dying of overdoses. At 43.7 deaths per million UK illegal drug related death rate is 11 times that of Portugal (3.86), where deaths fell dramatically across all ages after it decriminalised possession of drugs in 2001, encouraging people to seek help, and putting money saved into treatment. In 2016 just 27 people died from drug related deaths in the whole of Portugal. European average is 20.3 deaths per million (EMCDDA 2018).
  6. Drug decriminalisation in Portugal: setting the record straight
  7. In Switzerland aging drug users die primarily from physical illnesses like heart, liver and lung diseases not overdose because they have access to safer drug consumption rooms (DCR) and heroin prescribing clinics (HAT). (Dr. Thilo Beck 2016). After introducing these measures deaths from opioid related drugs fell by two-thirds Monitorage Suisse des Addictions,
  8. No one has died from an overdose, anywhere in the world, in a supervised drug consumption room (EMCDDA 2017) or a Heroin Prescribing Clinic.