Drug deaths double in Harrogate over last six years, new stats show

Deaths related to both illicit and legal drugs have both increased in the Harrogate district.
Deaths related to both illicit and legal drugs have both increased in the Harrogate district.

The number of deaths related to drugs such as cocaine, heroin and alcohol in the Harrogate district has almost doubled compared to six years ago.

New figures from the Office of National Statistics also reveal that across North Yorkshire, the number of people who have died as a result of drugs has risen by 30 per cent since 2013 - the largest increase across the entire Yorkshire and Humber region.

Released earlier this month, the report on drug deaths across England and Wales shows 19 deaths attributed to drug misuse - which includes illicit drugs as well as alcohol - in Harrogate across 2016-2018.

It's a steady increase from the 14 deaths recorded across 2015-17, up from 11 in 2014-16, and 10 (2013-15).

Harrogate also saw a rise in drug poisoning - people poisoned either accidentally or purposefully by drugs and medicaments - with 26 incidents in 2016-18, compared to 12 in 2013-15.

In a statement, Humankind, the body that operates local drug and alcohol counselling service North Yorkshire Horizons in partnership with Spectrum and CGL, said the numbers emphasise the need for more funding frontline services.

"The increase comes at a concerning time for those engaged in the harm reduction space, when deaths attributed to alcohol are also high and rising," their statement said.

"These harrowing statistics outline the urgent need for investment in frontline services so that deaths can be prevented among users not currently accessing treatment.

"Reductions in funding must be reversed in order to allow lifesaving interventions which have been significantly reduced in scope, such as user outreach and needle exchanges, to meet demand."

They also drew attention to the nation-wide divide in drug misuse, which sees the north far outweigh the south when it comes to the number of drug-related deaths.

"There is a marked north-south divide in drug misuse, which accounts for 96.3 deaths per million in the North East, almost double the England and Wales average. London had the lowest rate."

While the data encompasses deaths from all drugs types, opiates such as heroin and morphine continued to be the deadliest. However, deaths from cocaine doubled between 2015 and 2018 to their highest ever level, while deaths involving new psychoactive substances or “legal highs” jumped back up to their previous levels, having halved in 2017.

Lachlan Leeming, Local Democracy Reporter