Drug poisoning in England and Wales

Given the popularity of drug-related poisoning as a method of suicide, it may be of interest to read information on the most popular drugs used.

We present below figures from the UK Office of National Statistics for drug-related deaths where just one substance was mentioned. It should be noted that many deaths involve a combination of drugs – in around a third of deaths, more than one drug is mentioned on the death certificate, and in around a quarter, alcohol was mentioned along with one of the drugs.

It should also be noted that only a proportion of these deaths will be due to deliberate self-harm, and many are accidental overdose.

Nevertheless, the figures do give a feel for what drugs people have taken to kill themselves. As mentioned elsewhere on this site (see Drug poisoning), suicide by drug overdose is notoriously unreliable, with the vast majority being unsuccessful. Calculating minimum lethal doses is likewise very difficult (see Drug minimum lethal doses for further information).

Drug-related deaths where selected substances were mentioned without other drugs, England and Wales 20111

 

No.

%

Class A drugs

 

 

Heroin and morphine

332

20.1%

Methadone

231

14.0%

Cocaine

34

2.1%

 

 

 

Anti-depressants

 

 

Amitriptyline (Tricyclic antidepressant)

59

3.6%

Dothiepin (Tricyclic antidepressant)

28

1.7%

Other Tricyclic antidepressants

10

0.6%

Citalopram (SSRI antidepressant)

23

1.4%

Other selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors

16

1.0%

Other antidepressants

22

1.3%

 

 

 

Insomnia medications

 

 

Diazepam

4

0.2%

Temazepam

8

0.5%

Other benzodiazepines

10

0.6%

Zopiclone/zolpidem

20

1.2%

 

 

 

Pain relief

 

 

Tramadol

64

3.9%

Dihydrocodeine

46

2.8%

Codeine

23

1.4%

Other opiates

144

8.7%

Paracetamol

89

5.4%

 

 

 

Amphetamines

 

 

MDMA/ecstasy

7

0.4%

Other amphetamines

26

1.6%

 

 

 

Others

 

 

Gamma-hydroxybutyrate (GHB) / Gamma-butyrolactone (GBL)

10

0.6%

Cannabis

1

0.1%

Aspirin

2

0.1%

Barbiturates

28

1.7%

Cathinones

2

0.1%

Antipsychotics

48

2.9%

Helium

39

2.4%

Others (incl. Insulin)

323

19.6%

 

 

 

Total

1,649

 

Source

  1. Office for National Statistics, Deaths related to drug poisoning, England and Wales 2011, table 6b: Number of drug-related deaths where selected substances were mentioned without other drugs.