Purer cocaine linked to rise in drug deaths

Media playback is unsupported on your device                  Media caption Robert Fraser died just weeks after his 18th birthday

Media playback is unsupported on your device Media caption Robert Fraser died just weeks after his 18th birthday

The North East had the highest rate of drug misuse deaths in 2017, at a rate of 83.2 deaths per 1m people.

A post-mortem into Prince's death revealed he took a fatal overdose of the drug.

There were 75 deaths linked with fentanyl in England and Wales in 2017, up by almost a third from the 2016 statistic of 58. The numbers raises fears that the United Kingdom is experiencing an opioid crisis similar to that of the US.

The most risky version of the opioid, known as carfentanyl, was behind 27 accidental fatalities during the year - the first time it has been recorded in death certificates.

However, deaths involving both opioids decreased by four per cent past year to 1,164, the first decline since 2012.

Fatalities from "legal-highs" also decreased, from 123 in 2016, to 61 in 2017, following the government ban on psychoactive substances.

But statisticians argued last year's death rate remains similar to 2016, when there were 3,744 deaths related to drug poisoning.

Figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) showed that the number of deaths related to cocaine registered in England and Wales last year was 432, up from 371 in the previous year. "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".

Almost twice as many men die in drug-related deaths than women - 2,521 compared with 1,235. Conversely, Portugal, which decriminalised personal drug possession in 2001, has a drug-related deaths rate which is 17 times lower than that of England and Wales.

Niamh Eastwood, executive director of Release - the UK's centre of expertise on drugs and drug laws - blamed the government for "driving this devastating public health crisis by punishing people for their drug use instead of implementing compassionate, evidence-based policies".

'Unfortunately, these people are dying in their forties and fifties, decades before the average person.

"Being in treatment protects against deaths".

Consultant addiction psychiatrist Dr Emily Finch told the Today programme there's been around a 30% loss in funding for drug and alcohol treatment services in the last 5-10 years.

But Mr Hamilton argued it is 'middle-aged people using heroin and diazepam that make up the majority of these deaths, .'.

The Tories have stayed committed to their war on drugs policy, despite the fact that it's not protecting people or saving lives.

"The UK government has nowhere left to hide". They are responsible for vulnerable people dying in droves'. They also provide a plethora of benefits for people who don't use drugs in the local community, TalkingDrugs has reported, including a reduced strain on emergency services and safer streets.

Ms Tyrell added: 'Nobody wakes up in the morning and decides to become dependent on drugs.

Latest News