Sunderland has been announced as having the highest rate of drug related deaths in the region.
News Government figures from the Office of National Statistics has revealed that the city had 18.1 deaths per 100,000 people between 2015 and 2017.
The whole of the Tyne and Wear area ranked an average of 15.9 per 100,000, which is almost double the national average of 8.8.
The statistics has also announced that the North East has the highest rate of drug deaths in the country, for the second year running.
Drug deaths are reaching epidemic levels in the region, with figures rising year-on-year from 205 drug related deaths in Tyne and Wear from 2010 to 2012 to 349 from 2015 to 2017.
The Office of National Statistics say that rate of drug misuse in the North East was “statistically significantly higher than each of the other regions of England”.
The latest government figures could just be the surface of the problem though, with both Gateshead Council and Newcastle City Council seeing huge spikes in recent months which won’t all be included in the official statistics.
Cocaine is an emerging factor in drug related deaths, Councillors have been told.
Charity Change, Grow, Live said that there was a link between poverty and drug-related deaths.
A spokesperson for the charity said:
“We have also seen that drug-related deaths are often associated with poverty and deprivation. Within this context it is unsurprising that mortality figures can be high in areas of deprivation especially at a time when drug related deaths are rising nationally – when deprivation is often seen within an ageing cohort of drug users with increasingly complex health conditions.”
Northern regions had the highest rates of drug misuse and drug related deaths, with the North West and Yorkshire following the North East in the official figures.
Jane Slater from the Transform Drug Policy Foundation said there has long been a link between deprived areas and drug deaths.
“Poverty and drug use are very much connected.
“A lack of access to treatment is a big reason for the increases that we’re seeing.”
The Transform Drug Police Foundation is calling for more widespread use of naloxone which reverses the effects of an opiate overdose.
Durham Police Crime Commissioner Ron Hogg has announced plans to use the life saving drug in custody suites and Gateshead Council have been working with healthcare providers to have the drug provided to friends and family of drug users.
Mr Hogg said:
“I am really disappointed to see the new figures. They are a true reflection of a drug policy that isn’t working. Drug users should be able to seek medical treatment without fear of being criminalised. I have called on the Government to review the current UK drug policy, as it urgently needs to do more to save lives and reduce drug related-harm.”
He added: “The plans to introduce of naloxone in Durham are part of the sensible, radical approach which we are taking to reduce harm and save the lives of drug users.”