DRUG-related deaths soared to a record high in Bradford last year, alarming figures have revealed.

There are fears the cost-of-living crisis and the legacy of the pandemic will make the problem worse.

Data from the Office for National Statistics show 53 deaths related to drug poisoning were registered in Bradford in 2021.

That was up from 36 the previous year - and the highest number since records began in 1993.

They were among 4,859 drug poisoning deaths registered across England and Wales last year – the ninth consecutive rise and also a record.

Of the drug deaths recorded nationally last year, 63 per cent were due to misuse, meaning they involved illegal drugs, or were a result of drug abuse or dependence – including 45 in Bradford.

'A hard time coping with the pandemic'

Nuno Albuquerque, Treatment Lead for Oasis Recovery Bradford, a UK Addiction Treatment Group drug treatment facility, described the figures as very saddening and said: “This shows that people in our community have had a really hard time coping with the pandemic, and have taken to misusing drugs, even drugs prescribed by their GP, just to cope. 

"Unfortunately, we also know that the local council has spent a million pounds less on treatment programmes for drug misuse and the prevention of drug misuse in Bradford between 2019/20 and 2021/22.

“This money could have gone a long way to helping those most vulnerable overcome their addiction, but instead, mothers, fathers, neighbours, colleagues and friends living here have unnecessarily lost their lives to drugs.”

Bradford Council said further investment will be made in drug and alcohol services and support following the publication of the Government's new drug strategy.

'People need help and support - they aren't bad people'

Julie Romani, from Birkenshaw, knows all too well the devastation caused by addiction.

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: Julie and her son Jordan, who died nearly five years agoJulie and her son Jordan, who died nearly five years ago

Her son Jordan died almost five years ago after battling substance misuse. He was only 27. The tragedy spurred her to set up the website www.helpfordependency.co.uk in the hope other families wouldn’t have to endure the same unimaginable grief.

She said she struggled to find the answers to help Jordan and didn’t truly understand what he was going through.

“Addiction is a disease, people don’t understand this,” she said.

“The people who suffer from it need help and support, they are not bad people, as society leads us to believe.

“I thought the best age to warn people about addiction and dependency was in the school years.

“Children are using substances today from a very young age and little is being done about raising awareness in schools about the dangers of dependency and addiction.

“One of the biggest risks of addiction is using substances from an early age.”

Julie said she had been disappointed at a lack of response from schools, charities and other organisations when she reached out either to offer support or for research.

She said: “Bradford is so far behind, there needs to be more help and more awareness about this growing problem which is only going to get worse.”

The link between inequalities and the impact of drug addiction

Sarah Muckle, Bradford Council’s director of public health, speaking on behalf of the Bradford District and Craven Health and Care Partnership, said there is a strong link between inequalities and the impact drug dependency can have.

“Unfortunately, the increasing cost of living, combined with the ongoing legacy of Covid-19 means that many people in our district are struggling,” she said.

“We acknowledge this, and our local health and care partnership is focused on prioritising reducing inequalities in our communities, helping those who face the largest gaps.”

She added: “We have frontline services available across Bradford district, who work hard to support those with dependency and addiction issues.

“They provide a free and confidential service to anyone seeking support for themselves and to people who are caring for someone with dependency needs.”

A UK Government spokesman said its drug strategy will help rebuild drug treatment services and tackle criminal supply chains.

He added: “This will help to prevent nearly 1,000 deaths, deliver over 54,500 new treatment places – a 19 per cent increase on current numbers – and support 24,000 more people into recovery from substance dependency.

“This funding is additional to the annual public health grant spend and builds on the £80 million put into treatment services in 2021 which worked to decrease drug-related deaths by helping services distribute more naloxone, which can help reverse opiate overdoses.”

Where you can access help

New Directions can be contacted on 01274 296023 or via email to Bradford.Info@cgl.org.uk

Healthy Minds can be accessed at www.healthyminds.services/ - this acts as a doorway to mental health and wellbeing services across the district

24/7 confidential help and support for drug addiction can be found on the Oasis Recovery Bradford website at www.ukat.co.uk/treatment-centres/oasis-bradford. You can also call 0808 274 8029 for urgent help