EAST Lancashire has shown a ‘worrying’ rise in drug-related deaths over the last decade – especially in its most affluent borough where fatalities have soared.

New Government figures reveal that in East Lancashire overall drug deaths have risen by 10 per cent over the last decade, with 160 people losing their lives to overdoses in 2018.

And while the figures have consistently been the highest in Blackburn with Darwen, where there were 53 drug-related deaths in 2018, it is in the area’s most affluent borough, the Ribble Valley, where the number of deaths has more than doubled, with 16 fatalities last year compared to just seven in 2008.

Lancashire Telegraph:

Reacting to the figures, Ribble Valley MP Nigel Evans said the data was ‘hugely worrying’.

He said: “This is something that needs to be addressed with the utmost urgency. The police, health experts and politicians need to get together and work out what course of action needs to be taken to ensure this increase is halted.

“One death in our borough is a tragedy – 16 is appalling.”

Mr Evans went on to say that education was key in addressing the problem.

He added: “If nothing is done this misery will continue.

“I can only imagine that a lot of these tragic deaths are in young people who are experimenting more as drugs become more readily available.”

In Hyndburn, the figure recorded in 2008, 19, was the same in 2018 – though there have been periods where deaths rose, including in 2012 when 30 were recorded.

Last year in Burnley the figure rose to 37 – the highest since 2008 when 36 deaths were recorded.

Numbers have slightly dropped in Rossendale and Pendle over the 10-year period.

County councillor Shaun Turner, cabinet member for health and wellbeing, said work was taking place to understand what was driving the increase and to address what can be done to prevent such tragedies.

Cllr Turner said: “Treatment is well evidenced to be effective and a protective factor against drug related deaths.

“We invest more than £15m a year in high quality alcohol and substance misuse services, which help discourage people from taking drugs, treat people who are dependant and help people to recover from addiction.

“We would encourage anyone who is using or concerned about someone else’s use to contact our services.”

Blackburn’s counterpart Cllr Damian Talbot added: “Locally we have invested in strong substance misuse services whilst balancing the pressures that have come from the reductions to our budget.

“We have commissioned Change Grow Live (CGL), the health and social care charity, to deliver treatment services and they have amongst the highest successful treatment rates in the country, according to Public Health England.

“The charity runs Inspire, the free and confidential drug and alcohol service for adults, and Go2, the service for young people. It boasts dedicated nurses, medical staff and recovery coordinators.”

The figures across East Lancashire fall in line with the national picture, where the trend shows the number of drug-related deaths are rising across the board.

Nichola Armitage, director of Change Grow Live said getting more people to engage with available services is key in ensuring tragedies are kept to a minimum.

She said: “We know being in treatment helps protect against drug-related deaths and that most people dying from drug misuse are not engaged with treatment.

“That is why a key part of the work that Change Grow Live does across Lancashire is to aim to engage more people in need of help with our services.”

Information on where you can find help with a drug addiction can be found by visiting www.inspireeastlancs.co.uk