In response to the latest ONS figures on drug-related deaths, Vivienne Evans OBE, Adfam Chief Executive, says:
"Numbers alone are of course a useful indicator of wider trends in drug use and the associated dangers. However behind each statistic is a story, and as Martin Barnes from DrugScope said yesterday, “every drug-related death is a tragedy for the individual concerned, their family and friends”.
"Adfam would like to see further debate added to this yearly statistical release about the experiences of families affected by drug-related bereavement. These families are often forgotten, but as these figures illustrate, there are thousands of them out there. They have acute support needs: these deaths are often unexpected, can follow years of strained relationships, and involve levels of stigma and shame not experienced by other bereaved families. Death and bereavement are difficult to talk about at the best of times, but this is often amplified when drugs and alcohol are involved.
"There need to be services for these families to receive understanding and support with their tragedy. We also need to look at how different services interact with bereaved families – are people like the police and coroners sensitive to their experiences? Is bereavement counselling accessible to people whose family members have died because of drugs? Who is helping them with practical issues like inquests?
"We note with deep concern that accidental drug poisonings have risen by over 20% in the last year. The Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs has called for the ‘heroin antidote’ Naloxone to be made more widely available to prevent these deaths, including to families and carers, and we support this stance.
"The rise in deaths attributable to methadone is worrying, and some may seize upon it as evidence with which to criticise its use in treatment; however we urge caution. Methadone can play an important role in a balanced treatment system, and the continued overall decline of drug-related deaths – including a 25% reduction in heroin or morphine deaths in the last year – shows that harm reduction approaches are having a positive impact."