'Suicide websites' linked to rise in drug-related deaths

Helium and barbiturates, two drugs increasingly used to commit suicide, contributed to more deaths than ecstasy, cannabis and GHB last year.

Campaigners blame the proliferation of "how to" suicide websites for a rise in deaths linked to the substances. Anti-suicide group Papyrus last night called for greater regulation of sites that incite people to take their own lives using helium or barbiturates.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) figures released yesterday showed that the number of deaths in which barbiturates were implicated rose from six in 2007 to 37 last year. This is despite the number of prescriptions for the drugs, a type of depressant on which it is possible to overdose, falling by a half.

The number of deaths involving the inert gas helium also went from two to 42 over the same period.

The report, released yesterday, noted that "almost all" of the deaths related to the two were suicides.

"It is as insidious to incite people to kill themselves using a site like this as it is to groom a child for sex," said the chair of Papyrus's board of trustees, Stephen Habgood, whose son committed suicide using helium in March 2009.

"We have known about these sites for some time and are lobbying the Government to take action and the media not to give them extensive coverage. But the Government seems to feel that the current legislation, which makes it illegal to encourage suicide, is enough. I've approached companies which sell these canisters and asked them if they realise they can be used in suicide – most of the time, they don't."

In its report, the ONS wrote: "Deaths involving two substances – barbiturates and helium – have increased consistently over the last five years.… Although the number of deaths involving these substances is still relatively small, the large increases may be of particular interest to suicide-prevention researchers, as almost all of these deaths were suicides."

Mr Habgood said that "the ONS stats are grossly misleading" due to the way they are collected. He cited a paper by David Gunnell, a professor of epidemiology, Keith Hawton, a professor of psychiatry and Nav Kapur, a professor of psychiatry and population health, which found an increase in the number of narrative verdicts.

He said the number of suicides could be 20 per cent higher than ONS figures show because of coroners' reluctance to find deaths to be suicide.

The ONS report shows that there were seven cannabis-related deaths last year and ecstasy was linked to 13 deaths. The number of deaths related to cocaine use fell from 196 in 2007 to 112 last year, having risen to as many as 235 in that period.

Britons are learning to live the good life

People in the UK are staying healthy for longer, according to figures from the Office for National Statistics. Healthy life expectancy (HLE) – the proportion of life spent in good health – rose nationally by more than two years in the period 2008-2010, but in Scotland and Northern Ireland it declined.

In England, a boy born in 2008-2010 has a life expectancy of 78, with 64 healthy years; but a boy born in Scotland in the same period has a life expectancy of 76, with 60 healthy years, according to the data.

Suggested Topics
News
people Emma Watson addresses celebrity nude photo leak
News
Katie Hopkins appearing on 'This Morning' after she purposefully put on 4 stone.
peopleKatie Hopkins breaks down in tears over weight gain challenge
News
Boris Johnson may be manoeuvring to succeed David Cameron
i100
News
His band Survivor was due to resume touring this month
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
News
people'It can last and it's terrifying'
News
In this photo illustration a school student eats a hamburger as part of his lunch which was brought from a fast food shop near his school, on October 5, 2005 in London, England. The British government has announced plans to remove junk food from school lunches. From September 2006, food that is high in fat, sugar or salt will be banned from meals and removed from vending machines in schools across England. The move comes in response to a campaign by celebrity TV chef Jamie Oliver to improve school meals.
science
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Life and Style
fashionModel of the moment shoots for first time with catwalk veteran
Life and Style
fashionPart of 'best-selling' Demeter scent range
News
i100
Sport
Tom Cleverley
footballLoan move comes 17 hours after close of transfer window
Sport
Alexis Sanchez, Radamel Falcao, Diego Costa and Mario Balotelli
footballRadamel Falcao and Diego Costa head record £835m influx
Life and Style
fashionAngelina Jolie's wedding dressed revealed
News
i100
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Assistant Management Accountant -S/West London - £30k - £35k

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Ashdown Group: We are working with an exciting orga...

Deputy Education Manager

Negotiable: Randstad Education Sheffield: Deputy Education Manager required, S...

Bookkeeper -South West London - £25k - £30k

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: We are working with an exciting orga...

Project Officer (HMP Brixton Mentoring Project)

£24,000 per annum pro rata (21 hours per week): Belong: Work as part of a cutt...

Day In a Page

'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes': US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food served at diplomatic dinners

'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes'

US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food
Radio Times female powerlist: A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

Inside the Radio Times female powerlist
Endgame: James Frey's literary treasure hunt

James Frey's literary treasure hunt

Riddling trilogy could net you $3m
Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

What David Sedaris learnt about the world from his fitness tracker
Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Second-holiest site in Islam attracts millions of pilgrims each year
Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

The big names to look for this fashion week

This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York
Will Self: 'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

Will Self takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Toy guns proving a popular diversion in a country flooded with the real thing
Al Pacino wows Venice

Al Pacino wows Venice

Ham among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
Neil Lawson Baker interview: ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.

Neil Lawson Baker interview

‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.
The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

The model for a gadget launch

Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

Get well soon, Joan Rivers

She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

A fresh take on an old foe

Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering