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Nov. 25, 2021 – But ‘changes to lifestyle and social circumstances during lockdowns’, as well as Covid itself, may have also driven the death rate upwards, it added.

Ian Hamilton, a drug addiction researcher at the University of York, told MailOnline the figures are ‘shocking’.

‘While we have all been focusing on fatalities due to Covid it is now clear there were significant numbers dying prematurely due to drugs,’ he said. 

The OHID said the death rate among people receiving treatment increased from 1.1 per cent in the year leading up to March 2020, to 1.4 per cent in the year to March 2021.

This marks the largest increase in the proportion of people dying in treatment since records began.  

Death rates among people receiving treatment increased in all substance groups, rising from 1.4 to 1.7 per cent among those who have problems with opiates, mainly heroin, and 0.2 to 0.3 per cent among the non-opiate group, which covers cannabis, crack and ecstasy. 

And 1.4 per cent of alcoholics receiving treatment died, up from 1 per cent on year earlier. 

Some 0.6 per cent of those receiving help for problems with non-opiates and alcohol died, compared to 0.4 per cent during the previous year.

People with opiate problems accounted for two-thirds of the 3,726 deaths recorded, while the majority of the remaining fatalities were among alcohol addicts.

Around a third of the deaths were concentrated occurred in the most deprived 10 per cent of areas in England. 

The highest mortality rates were in the North East and North West of the country. 

Mr Hamilton said: ‘It is shocking to see this record rise in the number of people dying when in contact with specialist treatment services. 

‘During the pandemic many of these services adapted how they operated this included reducing in person contact and instead providing telephone or virtual meetings which don’t offer the same level of intimacy at a time when it is needed most.

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