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Posted on 18 August 2021

Tom Woodcock’s Blog – my response to the new Drug Related Deaths Statistics for in England & Wales

Tom Woodcock is the newly appointed Director of Treatment and Recovery at The Calico Group, combining the specialist services of Delphi Medical and Acorn Recovery Projects, both leaders in their fields of drug and alcohol treatment and rehabilitation respectively.

Tom brings with him proven credentials as a leader with a vast amount of experience working with social impact issues, such as substance misuse, homelessness and mental health, and has a proven track record of delivering results that have a positive impact of the lives of individuals and their families.


Drug Related Deaths 2021 – a response from Tom Woodcock

Every year since 1993 the Government has published statistics for deaths relating to drug poisonings in England and Wales and the recently published report for 2020 shows that 4651 such deaths were recorded with the highest rates occurring in the North of England. The report shows the overall increase in deaths since reporting began, the higher rate of male deaths, the clear links with drug misuse, and the high level of opiate use compared with other substances. Amongst the deaths there will be deliberate as well as accidental overdoses, young healthy people ‘experimenting’ as well as old timers with long histories of drug misuse and multiple health issues.

The report obviously provides aggregated information and doesn’t give insight into the individual lives lost but many people working in drug treatment, homelessness, health, and criminal justice agencies can put a face and a name to the people who have died. Some of these deaths will be people soon after leaving prison custody with little tolerance for street drugs, some will be regular users who bought from a batch of high purity drugs, whilst others will have simply overloaded their bodies with a cocktail of different drugs. It might be reasonable to assume that whilst some of the deaths seem shockingly random others were a lot more predictable.

Over the last few years the drug-related deaths across the North West have steadily increased and have been particularly high in Blackpool. In response a partnership of drug treatment and public sector partners has been mobilised specifically to work around drug related deaths and ‘near misses’ and learn from the predictable factors in individual cases to identify people at risk. There has been some great innovation in Blackpool like the take-home naloxone doses (opioid reversal agent) and more accessible wound management support and there are other developments in consideration to make sure a full range of treatment and support is available.

Another recent report on drug treatment by Dame Black urges the government to reinvest in residential and community services and build treatment capacity at key points in the criminal justice system. It is no co-incidence that drug-related deaths were lower ten years ago when there was a much clearer partnership framework and funding model for the sector. Lets hope the government sees the sense in making a commitment to drug treatment not only because it saves lives but also because it reduces costs in other parts of the public sector.

Whilst drug treatment interventions and collaborative partnerships can improve people’s health outcomes the fact remains that drug and alcohol misuse correlate closely with wider health inequalities and lack of opportunities. A more economically equal society is a more healthy society and it is critical that alongside individual wealth we are also creating commonwealth.

If you would like help, guidance and advice on drug or alcohol addiction treatment and recovery, our services are bespoke and delivered by friendly, non-judgmental experts. For addiction treatment, visit and for addiction recovery, visit


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