After yesterday’s rather sombre reminder that drugs and alcohol remain amongst the highest risks for the death of young people in Western Europe some rather better news.

The annual report into drug deaths from St Georges says that deaths amongst those aged 15-24 in England appear to have dropped over the past ten years by about 60%.

The report tells us that overall the number of deaths associated with drug use in the UK has fallen by 6.7% in the last year.  They say there were 1,757 notifications of drug-related deaths occurring in 2011 in the UK and Islands.


VSA deaths

It is perhaps easy to forget now but when I joined Mentor one of the first things I learnt was that more young people had died from volatile substance abuse than all other drugs put together.  That’s probably not true any more and certainly the number of young people dying from VSA has fallen considerably.

All of this has been documented by the annual report on VSA deaths in England and Wales compiled by St George’s University, the latest of which has figures up to 2009.VSA - 2009

As you can see from the graph above young people still make up a considerable proportion of those who die – just over one in four – but the long term trend has been down.

VSA vs Other DeathsThe report gives some further context:

In 2009 there was no death in the 10-14 years age-group, but at the 15-19 years age-group VSA deaths accounted for 1.0% of deaths from all causes. In the same year, transport accidents (which are by far the most frequent cause of death), accounted for 11.9% of all deaths at age 10-14 years and 25.0% of all deaths at age 15-19 years. Deaths associated with drug misuse accounted for 0.5% of all deaths in the 10-14 years age-group and 4.5% of all deaths in the 15-19 years age-group.

There is clearly something to be learnt from how young people have been prevented from coming to harm from volatile substances even as we work to make sure that even fewer families suffer the sorts of tragedies that these statistics reveal.

Scotland: Sick Man of Europe?

The Glasgow Centre for Population Health ask whether Scotland is Still “The Sick Man of Europe”?, and broadly the answer seems to be yes.

The analysis is focused on adult deaths and has this to say about rates of liver disease:

From the 1970s onward, mortality for both sexes increased significantly and by 2000 male mortality was six times the rate it had been in 1950 while female mortality was five times the rate. The steepest rise in mortality happened in a relatively short 10-11 year period from 1992, when male mortality nearly trebled and female mortality rates doubled.

The report points out that recent years have seen significant improvements with male mortality dropping by 21% between 2002 and 2010, while for women mortality had reduced by 27% from a peak in 2006.

So in 2010, 613 men and 286 women (aged 15-74) died from liver disease across Scotland.

But the point of the report is to provide some European context to these figures and what the authors point out is that by 1998 Scottish women were proportionally more likely to die of liver disease than any other woman in Western Europe a position that Scottish men reached in 2001.  Since then men have moved down the ranking slightly while women remain at the top of the rankings.

Below is a graph showing the difference between men dying from chronic liver disease in Scotland compared to England & Wales and Northern Ireland.

Nearly 1 in 10 Drug Deaths in the UK are Young People

The annual report on drug deaths in the UK has been published and shows that in 2010 one in ten deaths were under 24 years of age.

As you may have seen in the media reporting of the issue there is some good news in that there has been a fall of 13% in the number of drug related deaths since 2009.

Looking at the drugs that are associated with the deaths in that year it is clear that heroin remains the most likely drug to kill with over 130 fatalities in the last year.

However, as has been reported in the media, the growth in the number of fatalities associated with novel psychoactive substances (‘legal’ highs) is going to be causing alarm.

The big rise in these deaths seems to have been as a result of mephedrone, where deaths rose from 5 in 2009 to 29 the following year.

It is worth remembering that despite broadly positive trends drug deaths remain high when compared to our European neighbours.