National Programme on Substance Abuse Deaths

Project: Other

Project Details


NPSAD is based at St George's University of London. The Programme’s principal aim is to reduce and prevent drug-related deaths in the UK due to the misuse of drugs, both licit and illicit, by collecting, analysing, and disseminating information on the extent and nature of death.

Prof Fabrizio Schifano & Mr John Corkery have contributed to the work of the Programe over many years as team members, and continue to collaborate with Programme members in research and other activities, acting as advisers.

Key findings

Latest findings for 2012 deaths

A total of 1,613 notifications of drug-related deaths occurring in 2012 in the UK and Islands were submitted to the Programme prior to the publication of this Annual Report, whilst over 100 more deaths in the UK for 2012 have been reported since analysis began. The data presented here were provided by 87 of the 111 Coroners’ jurisdictions in England & Wales; an overall response rate of 78.4%, giving very high coverage for an entirely voluntary reporting system, and for this we thank the Coroners for their support.

The highest rates of drug-related deaths per 100,000 population aged 16 and over in 2012 were in the following DAAT areas: Liverpool (12.57); Blackburn with Darwen (11.45); Hammersmith and Fulham (11.34); Sunderland (10.55); and Manchester (8.79).

The principal demographic characteristics of the decedents have remained consistent with previous reports, with the majority of cases male (72.2%); under the age of 45 years (67.5%); and where ethnicity was known, White (97.3%).
Accidental poisoning remained the primary underlying cause of death in cases reported to NPSAD, accounting for 67.9% of deaths, followed by poisoning of undetermined intent (11.2%) and intentional self-poisoning (11.0%). Across all age groups, accidental poisoning remained the most frequent underlying cause of death, whilst a greater proportion of older females died of intentional self-poisoning than males. This pattern has remained consistent across the years.

Heroin/morphine remained the principal substance implicated in death in the UK and Islands for 2012; however the proportion of deaths in which the drug was implicated rose from its lowest level in 2011 to 36.4% in 2012. This increase of 4.5% from last year contrasts with the steady decline that was seen between 2009 (52.5%) and 2011 (31.9%) for deaths involving this drug. Another change in the drug-related death trends witnessed in recent years was seen in the proportion of cases involving methadone: deaths in 2012 involving this substance fell to 27.6%, which is in contrast to the steady rise seen from 2008 to 2011 (from 22.4% to 30.8%). Deaths involving hypnotics/sedatives, such as benzodiazepines, continued the consistent rise seen in previous years from 21.8% in 2008 to 30.3% in 2012.

The slight increase in deaths noted in last year’s report in which stimulants such as cocaine and ecstasy were implicated has continued into 2012 (accounting for 1.7% and 1.2% respectively, up from 1.2% and 0.7%), whilst deaths involving amphetamines stabilised. Of particular interest is that the number of deaths in which cocaine was implicated was higher in Liverpool than the whole of either the Midlands and East of England, London, or the South of England. Taking into account the population size of these regions compared to Liverpool highlights the importance of this figure.

As in 2011, 2012 saw a substantial number of deaths reported involving Novel Psychoactive Substances (NPS), again dominated by methcathinones such as mephedrone. Deaths involving other drugs of interest such as pregabalin and venlafaxine are discussed along with selected NPS in Chapter 8: Commentary and Emerging Themes.

Effective start/end date1/07/97 → …


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