Drugs: Misuse

Health written question – answered on 25th February 2014.

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Photo of Joan Walley Joan Walley Chair, Environmental Audit Committee, Chair, Environmental Audit Committee

To ask the Secretary of State for Health how many deaths have been recorded from volatile substance abuse in (a) North Staffordshire and (b) the UK in each of the last five years; and what steps he is taking to prevent volatile substance abuse among children and young adults.

Photo of Jane Ellison Jane Ellison The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health

The following table shows information collected by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) about the number of deaths where the underlying cause was drug poisoning and a volatile substance was mentioned anywhere on the death certificate registered between 2008 to 2012, the latest year for which data are available. ONS holds information for deaths occurring only in England and Wales.

Number of deaths related to drug poisoning where a volatile substance was mentioned on the death certificate, England and Wales, West Midlands and North Staffordshire, deaths registered between 2008 to 2012
Registration year England and Wales West Midlands North Staffordshire
2008 18 1 0
2009 19 3 0
2010 20 2 1
2011 17 1 0
2012 15 2 1
Notes: 1. Cause of death was defined using the International Classification of Diseases, Tenth Revision (ICD-10). Deaths were included where the underlying cause was due to drug poisoning (ICD 10 codes used were - F11-F16, F18-F19 Mental and behavioural disorders due to drug use (excluding alcohol and tobacco), X40-X44 Accidental poisoning by drugs, medicaments and biological substances, X60-X64 Intentional self-poisoning by drugs, medicaments and biological substances, X85 Assault by drugs, medicaments and biological substances and Y10-Y14 Poisoning by drugs, medicaments and biological substances, undetermined intent) and where a volatile substance was mentioned on the death certificate. 2. Based on boundaries as of 2013. North Staffordshire includes Stoke-on Trent Unitary authority, Newcastle-under-Lyme local authority and Staffordshire Moorlands local authority. 3. Deaths of non-residents are excluded from figures for West Midlands and North Staffordshire. 4. Figures are for deaths registered in each calendar year. 5. The figures presented are not the total number of deaths involving volatile substances as (i) the underlying cause must be within the ONS definition of drug poisoning and (ii) the volatile substance may not be recorded by the coroner on the death certificate.

Education plays an important role in helping to ensure that young people are equipped with the information they need to make informed, healthy decisions and to keep themselves safe. Drug education, including information about volatile substances, is part of national curriculum science at key stage 2 and key stage 3. Provision in this area can be built on through personal, social, health and economic (PSHE) education.

Public Health England manage the Talk to FRANK service which provides young people in England with friendly, confidential advice and information about drugs, including volatile substances, and has tips on how to resist peer pressure to experiment. The service is provided in a range of channels (helpline, website, SMS, email, web chat) to suit a variety of different needs.

The Association of Convenience Stores helps ensure that its members:

(a) understand that it is illegal to supply gas lighter refills to anyone under the age of 18;

(b) reduce underage access to gas lighter refills by removing accessible displays, helping to prevent shoplifting of gas lighter refills; and

(c) restrict sales to one tin per customer.

The Department has worked with the Association of Convenience Stores to encourage retailers who are not members of the Association to adopt the same standard of practice.

Also, the Department has funded Re-Solv to develop its Community for Recovery website to help people who abuse volatile substances. This can be accessed at:


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