Hartlepool has the third highest rate of drug deaths 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.
It is the third highest rate in the country behind Blackpool and Neath Port Talbot.
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 heroin 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, which has an operation in Hartlepool, said: “The truth is that most drug-related deaths are preventable.
“People who use opioids often have cumulative physical and mental health problems.”