Valium deaths soar as drug users mix ‘benzos’ with cocaine – The Guardian

Benzodiazepines, used to counteract stimulants, were mentioned on the death certificates of 476 people in England and Wales last year
Deaths linked to prescription anti-anxiety drugs such as Valium are at the highest level for a decade, driven partly by the increasing popularity of illegal stimulants such as cocaine.
Analysis of government data reveals that benzodiazepines – sedatives used for treating anxiety and insomnia – were mentioned on the death certificates of 476 people in England and Wales last year, a 55% increase in 10 years.

Experts from social care organisation Turning Point believe that drug dealers are increasingly offering “street Valium” to counteract the effects of stimulants such as mephedrone (Mcat) and cocaine.
Cocaine’s popularity continues to grow in the UK, with the latest data indicating unprecedented availability and a street purity that is higher than ever.
Analysis of NHS and government statistics by Turning Point found that deaths linked to diazepam – first marketed as Valium – rose the highest among all benzodiazepine-type drugs in the last decade, from 186 to 304, an increase of 63%.
Known as “benzos”, the psychoactive substances help calm brain activity and are used to treat fits, along with other conditions, but are highly addictive, although no comprehensive figures are available to estimate the numbers of people addicted.
Turning Point, which supports people with substance misuse issues, said urgent action was required to prevent further tragedies and improve support for those dependent on the drug.
David Bremner, the charity’s medical director, said: “The increase in deaths across the country is a concerning trend – each one is a tragedy.”
Experts believe that cuts in funding for substance misuse support services and increased pressure on primary care are among other explanations for the rise in deaths.
“Cutbacks to addiction support services and increased pressures on GPs are among factors that are likely to blame for this rise,” said Bremner.
He added: “Sustained investment in treatment services is key if the government is to address this public health crisis.”
The data shows that every region in England – apart from the south-west and east – has seen a rise in deaths among people prescribed or using benzodiazepines.
The highest figure overall was 78 deaths in 2020 for both the north-east and north-west, compared to 53 and 49 respectively in 2010.
This is despite the fact prescriptions for benzodiazepines in England have fallen overall from 11.3m in 2010 to 8.6m in 2020 following warnings about the high risk of dependency.
The Home Office was contacted for comment.

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