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Hartlepool has one of the highest drug-related death rates in the country

Drug dealing.
Drug dealing.

Drug-related death rates in Hartlepool are amongst the highest in England and Wales, new figures show.

Charities have said that most deaths from substance abuse are avoidable, and warned that drug abusers need better care to help deal with underlying health conditions.

New figures released by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) provide local data for drug-related deaths in three-year periods.

Between 2015 and 2017, 46 drug poisoning fatalities were registered in Hartlepool, at a rate of 17.4 in every 100,000 people. The national rate was 6.6 per 100,000 people.

Of those deaths, 33 were men and 13 were women.

Between 2012 and 2014, 17 drug-related deaths were recorded in Hartlepool.

Across England and Wales, 3,756 deaths involving legal and illegal drugs were recorded in 2017. It represents a small increase on 2016, and is the highest total since comparable records began in 1993.

ONS health analysis statistician Ellie Osborn said: “The figures published today show that the level of drug poisoning deaths in 2017 remained stable.

“However, despite deaths from most opiates declining or remaining steady, deaths from fentanyl continued to rise, as did cocaine deaths, which increased for the sixth consecutive year.”

Of the 46 drug poisoning deaths in Hartlepool between 2015 and 2017, 85% were registered as being down to misuse, meaning they involved illegal drugs or were as a result of drug abuse or dependence.

Information on the type of drugs recorded as being a factor in deaths is not released for the local authority.

But figures for the whole of England and Wales show that heroine and morphine were the most common drugs in drug-related deaths. They were registered in 1,164 deaths in 2017 – however, this is down on 2016, and the first year-on-year drop since 2012.

Antidepressants, which were a factor in 484 deaths, were the next biggest killer. There were 432 cocaine-related deaths, nearly four times the level in 2011.

Karen Tyrell, executive director of alcohol and drug charity Addaction, said: “The truth is that most drug-related deaths are preventable.

“People who use opioids often have cumulative physical and mental health problems.

“Most of them have had very difficult, often traumatic lives and we’re letting them down if we don’t give them the best care that we can.

“Nobody wakes up in the morning and decides to become dependent on drugs.

“Everyone deserves help, and we know that every person can recover with the right support.”