FOI REF: FOI-2023-1087
Please could you supply us with statistics on drug and alcohol-related deaths at music festivals for the past 5 years?
Thank you for your request.
We are responsible for the production of mortality data for England and Wales, this is driven by information collected from the death certificate at death registration. National Records Scotland (NRS) and Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency (NISRA) are responsible for statistics pertaining to Scotland and Northern Ireland. They can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com respectively.
The information recorded on a death certificate allows us to identify if a death was drug-related. We can also identify the individual's area of usual residence and where they died – this includes postcode, local authority, region and so on. We identify the geographic area by linking the deceased's postcode of usual residence, or postcode of place of death, to the National Statistics Postcode Lookup. All the geographic areas for which we can provide mortality statistics are available on our Open Geography Portal.
We hold the following analysis regarding deaths related to drug poisoning and alcohol-specific deaths:
Unfortunately, we cannot provide the exact data you have requested because it is not possible to accurately pinpoint a specific festival. To pinpoint a specific festival, we would need to look at drug-related or alcohol specific deaths by postcode, but this would result in numbers that are potentially disclosive, i.e. numbers of deaths that are so small that it might be possible to identify an individual from the data. Also, the data might not be accurate because the postcode will likely cover more than just the festival area.
The person could have taken the drugs or consumed alcohol at the festival but be pronounced dead at a hospital, in which case the hospital would be recorded as place of death, as opposed to the festival.
Drug-related and alcohol specific deaths are referred to a coroner and in some cases the coroner will add text explaining the circumstances surrounding the death, however, it is not mandatory for a coroner to provide context or a detailed explanation, and in many cases no coroners text is provided so this information it isn't consistent. Even in cases where a coroner does provide additional text, they would have to include the word 'festival' for us to find this keyword in a text search. This is not a reliable or accurate way for us to collate data on festival deaths.
However, we have found alternative data sources which may be of interest.
A recent investigation was carried out by The Department for Digital, Culture, Media, and Sport (DCMS). They have produced a report that looks at the drug-related harm at music festivals.
There are also publications by The Loop, who are a charity that delivers a drug-checking service at a limited number of UK festivals.
The Royal Society for Public Health released a Drug safety testing at Festivals and Nightclubs report in 2017.
Finally, there are some independent studies based on cases reported in the media. For example, this study, produced by Cambridge University Press. There's also a similar study, by University of Liverpool, which cites The Lancet Psychiatry, Vol. 6 No. 8, pp. 639-640 as a source of drug related deaths at festivals.