RSPH has reiterated calls for a major reorientation of UK drugs policy in response to new statistics out today from the Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC) showing that drug deaths in England and Wales are continuing to rise.

In 2014 (latest available figures), there were 2,248 deaths related to illegal drug misuse, up 15% on 2013 and 44% since 2004. This is the highest level of drug-related deaths since comparable records began in 1993.

There were also 14,279 hospital admissions for illegal drug poisoning in 2014/15, up 2% on the previous year and up 57% since 2004/05. This is in spite of a 10.5% fall in adult drug use over the same decade.

Shirley Cramer CBE, Chief Executive of RSPH, said: "These statistics are a stark reminder of the continued failure of UK government drugs policy. Despite falls in use, more people are dying and suffering serious harm to their health from drug misuse than ever before. This is largely a result of a drugs policy that has over-focused on criminal justice at the expense of public health, pushing the most vulnerable users to the margins of society and discouraging them from coming forward for treatment and support.

"Across the globe, many countries have started to turn this situation around by decriminalising drug use and moving towards policies based on public health and harm reduction. Given yet more evidence that harm to the public is increasing, the time is now right for the UK to adopt a new approach to drugs policy."

RSPH recently published a landmark drugs policy report, Taking a New Line on Drugs, calling for the decriminalisation of personal possession and use of drugs and a shift of focus to a public health approach.