THE number of over-50s being hospitalised after taking illegal drugs has rocketed, new figures show.

Almost 110 people were taken to Royal Blackburn Hospital last year, a 96per cent increase since it opened in 2006/07.

In stark contrast, nine were taken to Burnley General, and just one was admitted to Ross-endale Hospital, information released under the Freedom of Information Act reveals.

Overall, 69 patients were found to have taken opoids – a psych-oactive chemical that resemb-les morphine and can take the form of the pain killer tramadol and heroin substitute methad-one.

More than 25 were admitted after using cannabis, 19 had taken a cocktail of illegal subs-tances, and three had ingested cocaine.

The majority were aged bet-ween 50 and 69, but two people were older than 80 last year when they were admitted.

Two people also died, bring-ing the total number of deaths since 2005/06 up to 25.

Russ McClean, of East Lanc-ashire Patient Voices group, said he was shocked and sadd-ened by the figures, which he said could be blamed on poor mental health in the area.

He said: “Had it been under- 50s, I would not have been shock- ed, but I’m flabbergasted.

“We have to remember we are still in times of depression, and Blackburn with Darwen are still in an area of deprivation.

“I’m almost certain the fear of people losing their jobs, and putt- ing food on the table and the heating on, are causing people to have mental illnesses and drug abuse problems.”

Mr McClean said the figures were also putting more strain on an ‘already overwhelmed’ heal-th service.

The average stay in East Lanc- ashire hospitals over the past eight years was more than five days, although the figure has been on the decline since 2010/ 11. Mr McClean added: “I really believe mental illnesses do play a big part in drug misuse, and I’m really saddened by these figures.”

Nobody from East Lancashire Hospitals NHS Trust was avail-able to comment yesterday.