Rise in deaths whilst in treatment for drug and alcohol addiction, research shows

There has been a rise of 27% in deaths whilst in treatment for drug and alcohol addiction during the pandemic due to changes of support, a report shows.

Published by the Office for Health Improvement and Disparities, the figures show a 2% increase in the number of adults receiving help for drug and alcohol related problems from 2020 to 2021.

However, between April 2020 and March 2021, 2,726 people also died while in contact with these drug and alcohol services, which is up from 2,929 from the previous year. The report suggests that changes to support and reduced access to healthcare during lockdowns are likely to have been factors.

a woman rests her head on another person's shoulder

The proportion of deaths in those for treatment in alcohol addiction rose by a staggering 44% to 1,064 whilst opiate addiction rose by 20% to 2,418.

The report explains that, like other services, drug and alcohol addiction treatment services were affected by the need to protect staff and service users from Covid-19, which restricted face to face contact. Fewer people were therefore able to access in-patient detox treatment, as well as testing and treatment for side effects of addiction such as liver disease.

The report goes on to say that several factors will have contributed to the increase in the number of service users who died while in treatment during 2020 to 2021.

High-risk drinking has been a knock-on effect of the pandemic, up by 64% in people from lower socio-economic groups during the pandemic. Psychiatrists are now calling for the government to give £396 million more a year to addiction and rehab services to tackle the increase.

Photo by Külli Kittus


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