14 October 2020
Statement from Mark Moody, Chief Executive of Change Grow Live
The rate of drug-related deaths remains at crisis levels. Behind these statistics, are 4,393 unique people with their own story. Each death represents a profound, personal tragedy for families and communities across the country.
The drug-related crisis has been worsening for over a decade. At the heart of the trend is a perfect storm of factors; disinvestment, an ageing population of people using drugs, and increasingly complex health needs.
Adding to these challenges, the global coronavirus pandemic has, and continues to, impact vulnerable people most. This includes people with chronic health problems linked to drug use and people without a place to live.
It is concerning to see that deaths involving cocaine have increased again, for the eighth successive year, with a 25% increase in the cocaine-related death rate for women. Treatment services have a key role to play in supporting people, especially as cocaine purity at a retail level is at the highest levels for a decade.
We have reached a critical tipping point
Right now, and in the long term, the pandemic will increase the pressure on local treatment services. Many of these services are already stretched, with frontline staff and volunteers going above and beyond to meet demand. At the same time, poverty, inequality, and unemployment are likely to lead to more people using drugs and alcohol within communities.
Last year, we wrote to party leaders before the General Election. Our message stays the same; our sole focus cannot just be trying to stop people from dying as a result of substance misuse. Instead, as a society, we must help people to change their lives for the better.
We do not know what the full impact of the pandemic will be, or how long it will last. But we do know that the time we have now, to plan and prepare, is critical.
An evidence-based system is the only way out of the current crisis
No single sector or organisation has all the solutions to the drug-related deaths crisis. The starting point for developing these solutions must be evidence and, crucially, the conviction to act on the best evidence available. The time for an overhaul of current drug laws, which are outdated and not evidence based, is long overdue.
Services also need to be adequately resourced, but not in isolation. Drug related deaths are not an issue faced only by the drug treatment sector. Substance misuse, social inequality, and poor health – mental and physical – are all connected. This is clearly shown in the data as, over the last decade, the death rate has been significantly higher in deprived areas.
Services across different sectors of health and social care should be provided with the resources and autonomy to break down arbitrary and harmful divisions, especially those between substance misuse and mental health services. This will reduce stigma and allow passionate frontline workers to focus on people instead of processes.
We are at a crucial tipping point. Without a change in direction and without evidence-based approaches, deaths will continue to increase.
Each drug related death is a tragedy, and we know that we are not alone in our ambition to make a difference and help people change the direction of their lives. If you would like to learn more about what Change Grow Live do or to work together, do not hesitate to contact us.