Cost of living: Charity fears more drug and alcohol deaths over money worries

Many people may lose their lives by resorting to drugs and alcohol to escape the pressures of the cost of living crisis, a charity fears.

Substance charity Kaleidoscope says the number of people dying in Wales from drug and alcohol-related causes is at a record high.

In 2021, 472 people died from alcohol-related causes, whereas 210 were killed by drug misuse. And there are deep concerns that trend is going to continue to rise.

Cullan Mais supports people at the charity and says we're in an incredibly concerning time.

He told ITV Wales: "People use drugs to escape something and if the problem is growing bigger and bigger, of course people are going to dive deeper and deeper into addiction or worse - take their own lives.

Drugs and alcohol-related deaths for Wales in 2021 Credit: ONS

Cullan works alongside Vinnie, a Service User Peer at the charity. He's been clean from drugs for around three years after first using them aged 14.

Vinnie now helps other service users with their mental health and says he wouldn't be here today without his job at Kaleidoscope.

"I was a bit lost in my recovery until I found this and I just love what I'm doing," he said.

But his major concern is that his salary at the charity isn't able to stand up against the increasing cost of living pressures.

He said: "I'm relying on food banks, it's really tough, I don't have the heating on at home.

"I'm literally scared to turn on my heating, to turn on my gas because I'm just dreading that next bill, because I just haven't got (the money)."

Martin Blakebrough, the CEO at Kaleidoscope, says if his charity is going to continue offering vital support and employment, it needs help to stay open.

"We've committed to the living wage but what is really tragic, the real living wage is catching up with many of my staff.

"So my staff are going to be paid just at the least salary that can be possibly given to anybody.

"That can't be right. If the Welsh Government are serious about tackling the issues of drugs and alcohol, they need to be supporting us in this sector.

The Welsh Government says it has increased funding by a record £67 million to tackle substance misuse and it is helping charities to meet inflationary pressures.

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