Cornwall Council is warning of the dangers of new drugs circulating in Cornwall following a rise in the number of drug-related deaths last year.
In Cornwall there were 40 drug-related deaths in 2020 – an increase of nine compared to 2019.
Nine of those deaths involved illicit benzodiazepine (sedative) drugs that were previously unseen in Cornwall. A further three involved illicit benzodiazepines of similar strength that have been linked to previous drug-related deaths in Cornwall.
There is no quality control for illegally produced drugs. It is therefore much harder to know what these drugs are made from and how strong they are.
Each year Cornwall Council’s Drug and Alcohol Team carry out a review into each and every drug-related death in the county in a bid to identify if anything can be done to help prevent future deaths.
The 2020 review found that heroin-related deaths decreased by 36% and cocaine-related deaths decreased by 27% in Cornwall. This is a noticeable difference from the national picture where both drugs have shown another increase.
Sid Willett, drug related death prevention lead at Cornwall Council, said: “It is clear that illicit benzodiazepine drugs are becoming an increasing problem in Cornwall and our first priority is to look at how we can reduce the harm caused by these drugs. We need to help drug users to recognise the dangers of these substances, which are very powerful, and to support people with drug issues to seek help.
“We also identified that pain management continues to be a considerable factor in drug-related deaths. Last year 50% of the deaths involved people who have been enduring high levels of pain.
“We are continuing to improve joint working arrangements between drug and alcohol treatment services and health professionals to better identify those at risk of turning to the illicit market for help.”
With You provides free and confidential support for people with drug or alcohol issues. During 2020, the charity saw a 48% increase in referrals from people in Cornwall seeking support for drug issues.
Mr Willett added: “We are seeing more drug overdoses in Cornwall. However, once we can get people into treatment, we can help them to stabilise and reduce the risks to the individual and others.”
Councillor Carol Mould, portfolio holder for Neighbourhoods at Cornwall Council, said: “I would like to thank our drug support services for all their hard work over this really difficult period and urge anyone with drug issues to reach out for support.
“It is sad to see there has been a rise in drug-related deaths in Cornwall and we will continue working with our partners to help those in need.”
With You is a charity providing free, confidential support to people experiencing issues with drugs, alcohol or mental health. If you would like advice for yourself or someone you know, call 0333 200 0325 or go to the With You website.
Press release published on September 30, 2021