Official Stats: UK Government Policy Fuels Record Drug Related Deaths



Press Release

For immediate release

2nd August 2017


Official Stats: UK Government Policy Fuels Record Drug Related Deaths


The Office of National Statistics has released the latest drug related deaths statistics for England and Wales. 2,593 people died from the use of illegal drugs in 2016, 2% higher than 2015. That means record numbers dying for the fourth year in a row.


Martin Powell,Transform Drug Policy Foundation said; “The government must accept responsibility for record numbers of people dying from overdoses year after year. This unacceptably high level of deaths is a direct result of the Home Office’s scandalous approach to drugs. Other countries value the lives of vulnerable people who use drugs enough to implement and fund many measures proven to save lives, like decriminalising drug users, safer drug consumption rooms and prescribing heroin. All recommended by the government’s own expert body, the ACMD. None delivered by the government.


These deaths are not simply a result of drug users getting older as the government pretends. If they were, then countries like Portugal and Switzerland - with the same age range of users wouldn’t have a fraction of the death rate that we do. No one of any age has ever died from an overdose in a supervised drug consumption room, or a heroin prescribing clinic. How many more poor and vulnerable people need to die before both Tories and Labour follow the evidence, and protect our communities by legally regulating drugs to steer people towards safer products, while fully funding drug services for all who need them?”


Rose Humphries of the Anyone’s Child Project, who lost two sons to heroin overdoses said; "Today's terrible news of yet more unnecessary deaths from drugs has once again saddened me. I hope we can influence policy to prevent other parents having to hear the worst news any parent can hear, the thing most parents don’t even want to think about, the tears, and the grief of having to arrange their child’s funeral. That’s why I want legal regulation of drugs.


When my grandchildren are older, I’d prefer them not to use drugs. But, if they do, I want it to be without going to unsafe environments, without risking a criminal record or worse, without their families feeling fear and shame, with truthful drugs education, and by choosing safely produced and labelled products from regulated outlets."



Martin Powell, Head of Campaigns,  07875 679 301

Steve Rolles, Senior Policy Analyst, 07980 213 943



  1. The ONS 2017 UK drug related deaths statistics are available from

  2. Transform Drug Policy Foundation is a UK and Mexico based think tank campaigning for the legal regulation of drugs   

  3. Read more about Rose’s story at Anyone’s Child: Families for Safer Drug Control

  4. Portugal and Switzerland have aging drug users - but they are not dying of overdoses. At 60 deaths per million UK death rate is 10 times that of Portugal (5.8) 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 (EMCDDA 2017). Drug decriminalisation in Portugal: setting the record straight

  5. In Switzerland aging drug users die primarily from physical illnesses like heart, liver and lung diseases (like the general pop.) not overdose because they have access to safer drug consumption rooms (DCR) and heroin prescribing clinics (HAT). (Dr. Thilo Beck 2016)

  6. No one has died from an overdose, anywhere in the world, ever, in a supervised drug consumption room (EMCDDA 2017).