The number of people who died while accessing addiction treatment in Swindon has risen over the last three years.

Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) figures show that 17 adults died while undergoing drug addiction treatment in Swindon, between April 2019 and March 2022.

This was a slight increase on the 16 people who died from April 2016 to March 2019. However, it was down from the 20 deaths recorded between 2018 and 2021.

The Transform Drug Policy Foundation said that in order to save lives, more must be done to encourage drug users to enter and remain in treatment.

Across England, 7,429 people died while in contact with treatment services in the three years to March 2022. This was a 26 percent increase on the 5,889 deaths across the previous three-year period.

Martin Powell, head of partnerships at the Transform Drug Policy Foundation, said that the pandemic preventing people from accessing face to face treatment has likely contributed to the rise in deaths.

He said: "Against a backdrop of record drug deaths, we should be very concerned that over a third of people are dropping out of treatment, and just 60 percent of people using heroin are in treatment at all.

"To save lives we must offer services that retain people in treatment, and appeal to those we aren't reaching. This includes heroin prescribing clinics, overdose prevention centres and crack pipe distribution."

He believes the UK should follow Portugal's drug policies by decriminalising drug use to reduce the stigma that deters many from seeking help.

The most recent studies of opiate and crack cocaine use in local areas estimates that there were 1,075 people using the drugs in Swindon during 2016 and 2017.

That was the equivalent of 7.5 users per 10,000 people in the area, slightly below the national rate of 8.9 per 10,000.

A DHSC spokesperson said: “Drug and alcohol addiction can have a tragic impact on people’s health, families and lives.

“We are committed to tackling the root causes of substance misuse with our 10-year Drugs Strategy."

The department says it has invested £95 million of new funding to rebuild drug and alcohol misuse treatment centres and services in England this year. They are also funding specialist alcohol care teams in hospitals with the highest need.