Death: Drugs

Cabinet Office written question – answered on 6th September 2013.

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Photo of John Woodcock John Woodcock Labour, Barrow and Furness

To ask the Minister for the Cabinet Office how many deaths occurred in each region in 2012 where novel psychoactive substances were mentioned on the death certificate.

Photo of Nick Hurd Nick Hurd The Parliamentary Secretary, Cabinet Office, The Parliamentary Secretary, Cabinet Office

The information requested falls within the responsibility of the UK Statistics Authority. I have asked the authority to reply.

Letter from Glen Watson, dated September 2013

As Director General for the Office for National Statistics, I have been asked to reply to your recent question asking how many deaths occurred in each region in 2012 where novel psychoactive substances were mentioned on the death certificate [167964].

There is no official definition of the term ‘novel psychoactive substances’. However the Office for National Statistics does monitor deaths from drug-related poisoning, allowing analysis of deaths by specific substances involved.

In recent years a number of new psychoactive substances have been controlled under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971. These include gamma-hydroxybutyrate (GHB) and its precursor gamma-butyrolactone (GBL), piperazines (benzylpiperazine—BZP and trifluoromethylphenylpiperazine—TFMPP), pipradrols such as desoxypipradrol, and cathinones such as mephedrone. These types of drugs have been mentioned in association with the term ‘novel/new psychoactive substances’, and although they are also sometimes referred to as ‘legal highs’, many are now controlled under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971. A full list of drugs currently classified as 'new psychoactive substances' by ONS is shown in Box 2 below.

Table 1 provides the number of deaths where the underlying cause was drug-related poisoning and a new psychoactive substance was mentioned on the death certificate in each region of England for deaths registered in 2012. It is important to note that around half of these deaths mentioned more than one substance on the death certificate, and it is not possible to tell which was primarily responsible for the death. More information on how to interpret data on drug-related deaths can be found in the bulletin mentioned below.

The number of drug-related deaths registered in England and Wales from 1993 to 2012 are available on the ONS website:

www.ons.gov.uk/ons/rel/subnational-health3/deaths-related-to-drug-poisoning/index.html

Table 1: Number of deaths where the underlying cause was drug-related poisoning and a new psychoactive substance was mentioned on the death certificate, by region, England, deaths registered in 2012(1,2,3,4)
Region Deaths
North East 3
North West 11
Yorkshire and The Humber 4
East Midlands 6
West Midlands 6
East of England 4
London 9
South East 3
South West 3
(1) Cause of death related to drug poisoning was defined using the International Classification of Diseases, Tenth Revision (ICD 10) codes shown in Box 1 below. (2) Deaths were included where the underlying cause was drug-related, and where one or more of the substances shown in Box 2 below was mentioned anywhere on the death certificate. (3) Figures for regions are based on boundaries as of August 2013 and exclude deaths of non-residents. (4) Figures are for deaths registered, rather than deaths occurring in each calendar. Due to the length of time it takes to complete a coroner's inquest, it can take months or even years for a drug-related death to be registered. More details can be found in the ‘deaths related to drug poisoning’ statistical bulletin: www.ons.gov.uk/ons/rel/subnational-health3/deaths-related-to-drug-poisoning/index.html
Box 1. ICD 10 codes used to define deaths related to drug poisoning
Description ICD 10 Codes
Mental and behavioural disorders due to drug use (excluding alcohol and tobacco) F11-F16, F18-F19
Accidental poisoning by drugs, medicaments and biological substances X40-X44
Intentional self-poisoning by drugs, medicaments and biological substances X60-X64
Assault by drugs, medicaments and biological substances X85
Poisoning by drugs, medicaments and biological substances, undetermined intent Y10-Y14

Box 2. Drugs classified as new psychoactive substances

1-(Benzofuran-6-yl)-propan-2-amine

2-(1H-lndol-5-yl)-1-methylethylamine

4-Fluoroephedrine

4-Fluoromethcathinone

4-Methylamphetamine

4-Methylethcathinone

Alpha-methyltryptamine

BZP

Cathinone

Desoxypipradrol

Fluoromethcathinone

GHB

Khat

Legal high

Mephedrone

Methiopropamine

Methoxetamine

Methylenedioxypyrovalerone

Methylone

Synthetic cannabinoid

TFMPP

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