Sheffield Hospitals See 458 Opioid Drugs Overdoses In Four Years

Hospital admissions in Sheffield for opioid drugs, which include heroin and morphine, have risen and fallen since 2014.

By Will, 12, and Tommy, 12, Sheffield · April 20, 2020

Pic: Shutterstock

458 people were admitted to hospitals in Sheffield after opioid overdoses from 2014/15 to 2017/18. 79 people were admitted in 2017/18 alone.

Opioids are a group of drugs which include powerful painkiller morphine and the illegal drug heroin.

This is a rise from 45 people in 2014/15, yet a drastic fall from 15/16 and 16/17, when figures stood at 176 and 155 respectively.

Sid Wiffen, Senior Operational Manager at Sheffield Health and Social Care NHS Foundation Trust, said: “The rise in opioid related overdoses between 2015 and 2017 appears to be most likely related to the purity of heroin available in the UK. Evidence gathered by the police from drug seizures has shown the purity has been increasing since 2012.

“Deaths involving heroin and or morphine doubled from 2012 to 2015, coinciding directly with the increased purity of heroin.

“Accidental overdose involves numerous factors. While significantly linked to the purity of heroin, overdose is also linked to concurrent use of other substances that depress the respiratory system, as well as physical health related factors, such as COPD [chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, a form of lung disease].

“In 2018 the use of synthetic cannabinoids (known locally as spice) among certain populations increased and may have coincided with individuals using less opiates in preference for spice which is cheaper and easier to get hold of. In response agencies across Sheffield took a joint approach to deal with spice use, including providing training for numerous front-line staff working across the city, and establishing a bespoke Spice Clinic to meet unique service user needs.

“Sheffield Treatment and Recovery Team (START) are commissioned to provide drug and alcohol services across Sheffield. This includes an open access clinic for opiate addiction treatment which focuses on reducing drug use and reducing risk of harm, including accidental overdose.

“All service users are given information and advice to reduce risks, including the provision of Naloxone for those most at risk of accidental overdose.

“We have also established a network of services so alerts can be raised when dangerous batches of heroin or other drugs are identified.

“Sheffield has been below the national and regional average per 100,000 population for the number of drug poisoning hospital admissions (which includes all admission to hospital with the code for drug poisoning, which includes opioid admissions) since 2014/15.

“Treatment for opiate overdose involves the administration of Naloxone, an opiate antagonist that temporarily reverses the overdose. This may require a number of doses to be administered and close monitoring over a number of hours. Because opiate overdose suppresses the respiratory system other treatments delivered will be to address this including providing oxygen. Depending on the presence of other complications, admissions to treat opiate or opioid overdose are usually a few hours, but can be significantly longer depending on the severity of the overdose and complications from it.”

In October 2019, The Sheffield Star reported that “addiction treatment firm UKAT says Sheffield Council has cut its budget by £1.3 million over six years, when over the same time, drug deaths have risen by 12%.”

The article added that “health chiefs say many drug addicts don’t die from overdoses but from other complications and the cause of deaths can be complex and wide ranging.”

The data was sourced by media literacy charity The Student View, following Freedom of Information data released by Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust.

The Trust did not disclose how many of the 458 overdoses resulted in deaths.