Action call as drug deaths in Wales rise to highest level ever
Calls for radical changes to how drug addiction is dealt with in Wales have been made after the number of drug-related deaths recorded in Wales has reached its highest level ever.
According to the Public Health Wales figures, there were 210 deaths recorded in Wales in 2021, compared with 149 in 2020, an increase of 41%.
It also showed that the number of people dying in Wales after taking cocaine has doubled over the past five years.
The figure was also the highest since records began in 1993, with the previous record being 208 in 2018.
The number of deaths per million people was higher in Wales than in England, which saw a far smaller rise in deaths.
Welsh Liberal Democrats are calling on the UK Government to learn from the experiences of places like Portugal, and organisations such as the UN, in developing policies to drive down drug deaths or to devolve justice for Wales so that the Senedd can legislate to do so.
The party is also calling for the establishment of safe consumption spaces, which could be done under existing Welsh Government powers.
“Every death caused by drugs is a tragedy and results in the loss of someone’s parent, child, friend or sibling,” Welsh Liberal Democrat Leader Jane Dodds MS said.
“What makes it all the more tragic is most deaths caused by drugs are preventable. Drug addiction is a health condition and should be treated as such.
“We want to see a much more holistic approach to those reported for drug offences, treating offenses as a public health issue rather than a criminal one, learning from best international practice such as that in Portugal.
“This would see the diversion of people caught in possession of drugs for personal use into education, treatment and recovery, ceasing imprisonment in these circumstances.
“It is clear from these figures today that the current approach by the UK Government isn’t delivering the results we want to see.
“The Conservatives must develop a new, more progressive approach to drug addiction or devolve the Misuse of Drugs Act to Wales to allow the Senedd to do so.”
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