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OAP overdose quadruple in a decade, NHS figures show

OAP overdose surge: Number of over-75s hospitalised with drug poisoning has almost TRIPLED in a decade driven by a surge in prescription opioids like codeine

  • NHS data show 835 pensioners hospitalised with substance poisoning last year
  • It had risen more than  third in three years and quadrupled since 2008 and 2009 
  • Experts said rise in powerful painkiller prescriptions may have contributed

The number of over-75s overdosing on drugs in England has more than doubled in a decade, shocking figures show.

NHS digital data revealed 806 pensioners were hospitalised with substance poisoning in 2018/19 – up from 310 in 2008/9.

It marks a jump by 7 per cent from the previous year and a 15 per cent rise on 2016/17.

One expert told MailOnline a rise in the number of powerful painkillers being doled out may have contributed to the rise. 

The number of over-75s overdosing on drugs in England has almost tripled in a decade – rising from 310 to 806

Ian Hamilton, an addictions lecturer at the University of York, said: ‘This data shows the impact this is having on all age groups but on older people particularly. 

‘As people age they develop a range of complex physical problems which means they are more likely to experience problems from prescriptions that they used to be able to take without a problem.

‘For example many painkillers affect breathing, many older people develop respiratory problems which are made worse by the effect of painkillers.

‘This needs to be changed or we will continue to see people die long before they should.’

Overall, there were 18,053 people admitted to hospital with substance poisoning in 2018-19. It marks a 6 per cent jump from 17,031 the previous year and a 7.5 per cent increase on 2016-17

The report also found the overall number of people overdosing on drugs had climbed for the third year in a row.

There were 18,053 people admitted to hospital with substance poisoning in 2018-19. It marks a 6 per cent jump from 17,031 the previous year and a 7.5 per cent increase on 2016-17.

More than half were caused by opioids, including heroin, morphine and codeine tablets – another strong painkiller only available on prescription.

Europe and UK ‘are spiralling towards a drugs overdose epidemic’

Europe could be spiralling towards an opioid epidemic as an unprecedented surge of cheap, super-strength heroin hits the streets of EU nations, a major report warns. 

Experts say the influx of the opiate, as well as a surge in the number of copycat drugs like fentanyl, could trigger an explosion in the number of overdoses. 

A major EU report about the drugs market in the continent today revealed record amounts of heroin are being shipped into Western nations, and that man-made versions of the drug represent a ‘growing health danger’.  

Huge amounts of the drugs could trigger something akin to the opioid crisis which has gripped the US in recent years, with tens of thousands dying of overdoses. 

The 2019 EU Drug Markets Report, released by the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction, and Europol, found opium poppy production in Afghanistan was at a ‘historically high level’, more than doubling in the last decade.  

This has caused a huge increase in the purity and volume of heroin making its way into the continent. 

Ian Hamilton, an addictions lecturer at the University of York, told MailOnline: ‘We’ve watched the opioid epidemic unfold in America, but Europe has managed to escape it so far, by and large.

‘But this could change as the strength of heroin will increase, due to such a high yield in Afghanistan.

‘It will be so strong that, even if you have experience with the drug, it’s difficult to know how much you should take.

‘You’ll see increased activity in A&E’s. This won’t be people seeking treatment, it’ll people needing treatment from overdosing.’

‘This at a point when UK drug treatment services are facing severe cuts to their budgets.

‘This suggests we are not in a position to be able to respond to this threat to public health.

‘We’ve already seen violence associated with these drugs in the form of county lines drugs, which is directly correlated to the UK.’ 

The next highest was 2,568 for synthetic drugs like spice and fentanyl – which are up to 50 times stronger than cannabis and heroin, respectively.

Data showed 1,336 admissions were for cocaine misuse, 363 were for marijuana and 70 for LSD.

It’s the second highest number of admissions for drug poisoning since 2012-13, with the figures peaking at 18,128 in 2015-16.

Figures also showed there had been a surge in the number of hospital admissions for drug-induced mental and behavioural disorders in a decade.

There were 7,376 admissions in the last year, almost a third more than in 2008-2009.

Campaigners said the statistics showed the current approach to tackling drug misuse was not working.

They called for the next government to treat people with ‘compassion and dignity’ instead of punishing them.

Drug and alcohol charity Addaction policy researcher Robin Pollard said: ‘Trying to arrest our way out of the issue has been a monumental failure.

‘With drug-related deaths at record levels, it’s clear our current approach to problematic drug use isn’t working.

‘The next government must follow the evidence, treating people with compassion and dignity, not punishment.

‘At the same time, there needs to be investment into drug and alcohol treatment to allow services to offer the intense, person-centred support we know works, with a particular focus on the UK’s most deprived areas.

‘However we shouldn’t stop there. Other evidence-based approaches such as safer consumption rooms, drug testing facilities and heroin-assisted treatment should also be an option where needed.

‘It’s time to put people’s well-being and safety first.’

It comes after the Office for National Statistics (ONS) revealed there were 4,359 deaths from drug poisoning recorded in England and Wales in 2018 – the highest number since records began in 1993.

The ONS said it was also the highest annual increase since records began, rising 16 per cent (603 deaths) from 2017.

A separate report from Public Health England revealed there was a fall in the number of young people seeking help for drug and alcohol issues.

There were 14,485 young people who used NHS England services for addiction between April 2018 and March 2019.

This is a 7 per cent reduction on the number the previous year (15,583) and a 40 per cent fall from a decade ago (24,053).

Cannabis remains the most common substance (88 per cent) that young people come to treatment for, the same proportion as the last three years.

Around four in 10 young people (44 per cent) said they had problems with alcohol (compared to 46 per cent the previous year), 14 per cent reported ecstasy and 10 per cent reported powder cocaine problems.

There was a slight increase in the number of young people seeking help for opiates such as heroin (216 young people compared to 187 last year), which is less than 1 per cent of those in treatment.

There was a 35 per cent increase in young people reporting a problem with benzodiazepines from the previous year, and 3 times the number in 2016 to 2017.

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