Drug Addiction and Overdose Statistics Surge in Wales

Wales city street

Drug deaths are at record levels in Wales. Fatal overdoses have surged by almost 80% over the last decade, with most of that surge occurring between 2016 and 2018. In 2018, one city in Wales, Swansea, recorded 122 fatal drug overdoses, or one overdose death for every 2,000 people living in the city. The overdoses just in Swansea alone account for more than half of the country’s total overdose deaths for that year, indicating a serious public health crisis in the larger urban areas in Wales.

If the trend continues, already thinly stretched public health responses in Wales will become overrun, and more addicts will die. What will it take to get Welsh addicts help?

Opioid Overdoses on the Rise in Wales

Across England and Wales, the three cities with the highest drug overdoses are Lancashire, Swansea, and Neath Port Talbot. Swansea and Neath Port Talbot, the second and third highest fatality-per-resident cities in England and Wales, are both in Wales. Though neighboring England far outmatches Wales in resident population, the Welsh have a much higher drug use per capita and drug overdose per capita problem than England.

According to a local Welsh addiction expert, Caroline Phipps, “We’re getting much better at providing services but we still can’t save enough lives. If it was this amount of people dying because of anything else it would be a national emergency. We would be doing everything we could to stem this tragedy.”

Caroline talks about how addicts in Wales are suffering a “perfect storm,” in that drugs are readily available. The drugs are relatively cheap, and there is an established customer base in most Welsh cities which is not getting addiction treatment services fast enough. The addiction crisis in Wales is exacerbated by the fact that more than half of all drug overdose deaths in Wales involve opioids, a class of drugs that can easily cause fatal overdoses. Furthermore, about half of all overdose deaths in Wales involve multiple drugs, making access to treatment and recovery even more challenging for addicts.

According to the Guardian article cited earlier, public health experts in Wales are concerned that the average age of addicts involved in fatal overdoses has steadily dropped, with drugs claiming the lives of younger and younger people as each year goes by. Experts believe this may be because Welsh drug dealers are using social media as a means to target young audiences.

The Scope of the Problem

Wales ambulance
Photo by Ceri Breeze/iStockPhoto.com

The population of Wales as of 2019 is 3,126,000. According to a BBC report, the country suffered 208 drug-related overdoses in 2018, an uptick from 185 such deaths in 2017. According to the data, overdoses have increased by 84% in Wales in the past decade. About one out of every 15,000 residents dies from drugs each year.

"... Almost half of all drug-related deaths involved opiates such as heroin and morphine. However, cocaine deaths rose for the eighth consecutive year to their highest level.”

According to Ben Humberstone, deputy director of Health Analysis and Life Events, “The number of deaths due to drug poisoning registered in 2019 remains at a similar level to 2018. Almost half of all drug-related deaths involved opiates such as heroin and morphine. However, cocaine deaths rose for the eighth consecutive year to their highest level.”

Part of the reason why drug overdoses are becoming more common in Wales is that recreational and self-medicative drug use has surged within the Welsh population, particularly among young people. According to the Office for National Statistics, 1 in 11 adults in Wales takes drugs, approximately 343,860 people in all.

The question remains, why has there been a surge of drug use and overdose in Wales? For drug overdoses, experts believe that the critical factor is that addicts are not receiving treatment services soon enough. The treatment gap is very wide in Wales, with much of the addicted population going years before receiving treatment. Some never get treatment at all.

Such a gap in addiction treatment results in addicts placed at severe risk for overdose. When addicts do not get help, their addiction crisis will gradually worsen until they either get help or suffer a fatal overdose. That is why addicts in Wales must be given access to addiction treatment services as soon as possible.

As for the surge in drug addiction itself, multiple authority papers, research texts, and study findings point in the direction of people using drugs in Wales at younger and younger ages. One paper indicated that about 10% of Welsh youth ages 15-16 uses drugs with some regularity, with about 20% of that same age group admitting to having tried drugs at least once. While no type of exposure to drug use is safe or acceptable, the younger one is exposed to drugs the more likely they are to fall prey to drug addiction.

Drug Rehabilitation—Helping a Loved One Overcome an Addiction

Helping an addict - Wales family

A big part of addressing and reducing drug addiction and drug overdoses in Wales will come from educating young people on the risks and dangers of drug use. At the same time, public health officials, policymakers, and families must do everything in their power to ensure those who are currently using drugs get the help that they need.

If you know someone who is using drugs, please do everything you can to get them into a qualified drug and alcohol addiction treatment center. Do not wait until it is too late. Please contact Narconon today to take the first step towards getting your loved one help.




After working in addiction treatment for several years, Ren now travels the country, studying drug trends and writing about addiction in our society. Ren is focused on using his skill as an author and counselor to promote recovery and effective solutions to the drug crisis. Connect with Ren on LinkedIn.