The \u2018substantial upward trend\u2019 in drug-related deaths was explored at the latest meeting of the Drugs, Alcohol and Justice Cross-Party Parliamentary Group, as DDN reports. The greatest increase in drug-related deaths was seen in the most deprived areas, explained Dr Ben Windsor-Shellard of the Office for National Statistics (ONS), with the North East of England experiencing a significantly higher rate than the rest of the country. Scotland\u2019s annual increase of 27 per cent gave it the highest drug-related death rate in the EU, while drug-related deaths in Wales had increased by 84 per cent in the last decade. The 16 per cent increase in England and Wales \u2013 to a total of 4,359 deaths \u2013 represented the highest annual increase since records began. There were statistics for alcohol-specific deaths too, but the ONS considered these to be a \u2018conservative estimate of the harms related to alcohol\u2019 as they only included health conditions where the death had been a direct consequence of alcohol misuse, such as alcoholic liver disease. While the overall death rate had remained stable in recent years, the figures showed \u2013 just as with the drug-related statistics \u2013 a clear impact of deprivation, with the death rate up to four times higher in areas where there was poor housing, unemployment and adverse childhood experiences. \u2018The number of lives lost is the highest on record, with the vast majority including opioids,\u2019 said Sunny Dhadley, representing the Naloxone Action Group (NAG). Naloxone was an easy-to-use medication in reversing an overdose, yet it was \u2018simply not reaching the people who need it the most\u2019. While data was very useful, we needed to look at all the strands that currently worked in isolation from each other \u2013 inequality, mental health, release from prison \u2013 and also align the drug strategy to work closely with commissioning. Expanding peer-led initiatives could help to tackle stigma, prejudice and racism and he called for more meaningful service user involvement. Changing the situation was \u2018not just about funding\u2019 \u2013 \u2018we need to address pathways and functions across systems,\u2019 he said. \u2018I need to add that stigma is rife,\u2019 commented detective chief inspector Jason Kew, heroin and crack action area coordinator for South East England. \u2018I call on all of us to be leaders and change that narrative. Stigma kills.\u2019 Lauren Tapp gave insight from her work at Health Poverty Action. She talked about the 60 per cent rise in drug deaths worldwide and urged the group to think about drugs as a global issue. \u2018There is an incredible amount of deaths that could have been prevented by access to harm reduction,\u2019 she said. \u2018Stigma, lack of access to services and criminalisation make negative experiences for people who use drugs.\u2019 Globally, just as locally, \u2018we can\u2019t just think about the war on drugs in terms of drug poisonings \u2013 we need to think of it in the wider setting,\u2019 she said. \u2018How much money is going into enforcement compared to other drugs initiatives, such as harm reduction and naloxone? There are better places that money could be spent.\u2019 The group\u2019s discussion reflected deep frustration with the lack of political will to change the situation. \u2018We had to do something ten years ago. We can\u2019t keep saying that year on year,\u2019 commented Dhadley. \u2018We have the ONS figures every year and they go up and up,\u2019 said Alex Boyt. \u2018We have the same conversations, the same tragedies. What can we do differently?\u2019 \u2018This graph tells you everything that\u2019s wrong with drug policy in this country,\u2019 added Karen Tyrell, executive director at Humankind. The group resolved to build on its connections with other parliamentary groups to push the agenda forward \u2013 beginning with a list of recommendations that members believed were realistic and achievable. Summary of recommendations \tInvest in treatment, including mandating drug and alcohol misuse services within local authority budgets. \tProvide financial support to local authorities to find individuals for whom traditional OST has failed and offer them heroin-assisted treatment. \tSupport the use of medically supervised drug consumption rooms. \tExtend naloxone coverage. \tExpand outreach services. \tExplore policy reform, such as decriminalisation of drug possession for personal use.