A criminologist says cuts to mental health services are one reason why people in Sheffield are over three times more likely to die from illegal drug abuse than in a road accident.
Former drug addicts and supporting groups involved in National Recovery Month have been raising awareness for recovering drug addicts throughout September.
But the month has coincided with the news that there has been a country-wide increase in the ratio of deaths from illegal drugs to deaths in road accidents, according to figures released by the BBC.
Senior Lecturer in Criminology at Sheffield Hallam University, Dr Jamie Irving, said: "Road accident deaths are likely to have fallen due to council policies- more speed cameras, cameras monitoring bus lanes and more speed bumps. Drivers are aware of these measures and effectively police their own behaviour.
"Deaths caused by illegal drug use is a wholly more complex phenomena.
"We have seen cuts to various services that support drug users, and an increasing number of deaths due to the long term consequences of drug misuse such as hepatitis-related liver disease and chronic respiratory conditions.
"Policies that focus or insist on abstinence can be dangerous but are not solely to blame. What we're witnessing is a combination of effects that result in one of the most stigmatised and vulnerable groups in society falling through gaps in the policy and drug treatment landscape."
In Sheffield 101 people died from drugs-related deaths in the last three years compared with 30 road deaths.
Yorkshire and the Humber was the region with the biggest increase in deaths through drugs misuse between 2014 and 2015.
Greg Fell, Sheffield City Council’s Director of Public Health, said: “To put this in context the figures are still very low. A tiny proportion of deaths in Sheffield last year were drug-related deaths.
“We are working with people to access drug support services in Sheffield so that more people will use them. There’s a strong recovery community in Sheffield, as demonstrated by the successful recovery month.
There have been events to raise awareness for addict recovery in Sheffield every day of September for National Recovery Month.
Activities on the final day of September tomorrow will involve arts and crafts, a Dragon's Den event, a well-being drop-in session and a workshop for female addicts about building self-confidence and self-esteem.
Mr Fell said: “Our plans for the next four years include identifying people affected by drug issues earlier on so treatment can be offered to stop problems from getting worse. We will also continue to work with other services and explore new ways to tackle the problems.”
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