Rise in drugs deaths spark fresh concern

Drug deaths in Blackpool have risen and (below) Dr Rajpura
Drug deaths in Blackpool have risen and (below) Dr Rajpura
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Drug poisoning kills more people in Blackpool than anywhere else in the country, shocking new figures reveal.

The death toll in the resort has soared by more than 50 per cent in the last three years.

Dr Rajpura

Dr Rajpura

More than 20 people are killed by drugs every single year in the resort, where the mortality rate is more than four times the national average.

Nationally, illegal substances are blamed for two thirds of drug-related deaths. Blackpool has the second highest rate of opiate and crack cocaine users in the country.

Experts today said the figures, released by the Office for National Statistics, were a cause for “great concern”.

Dr Arif Rajpura, Blackpool Council’s director of public health, said: “We have long recognised there is a problem with the volume of drug use and subsequent number of drug related deaths in Blackpool.

We have long recognised there is a problem with the volume of drug use and subsequent number of drug related deaths in Blackpool

“The recently published report highlights that this is an important issue for the town and demonstrates the challenges we face with individuals who have drug addictions.”

He also highlighted the council’s work, using services such as Horizon, to help people suffering from addiction.

The ONS figures cover accidents and suicides involving drug poisonings, as well as deaths from drug abuse and dependence.

One reason cited for a rise in deaths linked to cocaine and heroin was the increased purity of the substances available.

Drugs were blamed for 63 deaths in Blackpool between 2012 and 2014 – up from 39 in the three years before.

The resort’s standardised mortality rate of 148.6 per million people is the highest in the country – and more than four times the national average of 33.5. The rise in deaths saw Blackpool overtake Brighton and hove, which topped the list in 2011.

Figures show there are more than 1,800 opiate and crack addicts in Blackpool – the second highest rate of drug use behind Middlesbrough.

Rosanna O’Connor, of Public Health England, said the rise in deaths caused by heroin use is a “great concern”.

She added: “The increased global availability and purity of heroin is clearly having an impact in England. Fewer people are using heroin but the harms are increasingly concentrated among older, more vulnerable users.”

Dr Rajpura added: “Blackpool Council commission Horizon to provide support and help people with drug problems.

“The key focus of Horizon is to support individuals achieving recovery, which includes prevention work such as overdose awareness training, and supply additional support to those people at risk of overdosing.

“We would encourage individuals who are worried or concerned about their drug use to contact Horizon on 01253 752100.”