DRUG-related deaths in Wiltshire rose during the first year of the Covid-19 pandemic, according to official data.

According to data from the Office of National Statistics, Wiltshire recorded 29 drug-related deaths during the first year of the pandemic.

This is an increase from 2019 where the same figure was 23, and represents the highest number of such deaths since 2016.

Of those that died, 19 people were recorded as dying due to illegal drug misuse or dependence.

For the last five-years Wiltshire Council has slashed budgets for drug and alcohol misuse treatment in adults by as much as 70 per cent.

Director of public health for Wilthsire, Kate Blackburn said, “Wiltshire Council records drug related deaths notified by the commissioned substance misuse service, Turning Point. Notifications relate to individuals who are engaging, or have previously engaged with Turning Point for support.

“During 2019/20 18 drug related deaths were recorded, this rose slightly to 21 deaths in 2020/2021.

“Reviewing drug-related-deaths can help our local understanding to identify any emerging trends or patterns, as well as inform the decision making of where future interventions can be targeted.

“South-West Substance Misuse commissioners are working on establishing a joint approach via the South-West Alcohol and Drug Commissioner Network in responding to drug related deaths; ensuring there’s an aligned approach to reviews, sharing of information and responding to trends.“During the pandemic Turning Point’s support hubs have remained open across Wiltshire, as well as access to digital interventions where appropriate. We continue to work closely with our partners on increasing earlier access to help and support for increasing and higher risk drinkers and those that use drugs.”

Ben Judd, senior operations manager at Turning Point, said: “Nationally, there has been a significant increase in drug related deaths. Thankfully, we have not seen the increases in Swindon and Wiltshire that have been seen in some other parts of the country; however, even one death is too many and our thoughts are with anyone who has lost someone this way.

“Every drug or alcohol related death is preventable. We know that treatment works and this is the best way to protect against drug related deaths. Turning Point services have remained open throughout the pandemic, IMPACT achieves really good treatment outcomes compared against other local authorities and we have seen new referrals increase over the last year. However, there is still more to be done and additional funding from central government will enable us to reach even more people over the next two years.”

“If you are concerned about your own, or a loved ones, drug or alcohol use then please do contact us by ringing 0345 603 6993, you can also find your local support hub by visiting our website at https://www.turning-point.co.uk/services/impact”