One person a fortnight is dying in Sunderland due to drug misuse, shocking new figures reveal.
The latest report into drug deaths from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) shows that there were 52 deaths in the city between 2014 and 2016.
That number is up from 47 in 2013 to 2015.
Of the 52 who died due to drug misuse, 43 were men and nine were women.
In neighbouring city Newcastle, there were 54 drug-related deaths between 2014 and 2016.
Between 2014 and 2016 there were 532 deaths in the region and a total of 6,803 nationally, up by almost 600 on 2013 to 2015’s figures.
The North East has the highest mortality rate, with 77.4 deaths per million population, a 13% increase from 2015, compared to 42.9 deaths per million population in England.
Sunderland City Council’s portfolio holder for public health, Coun John Kelly said: “In Sunderland, we continue to fund and develop substance misuse services and work with other partners to help address the causes of drug related mortality.
“Most recently, we have implemented a programme which provides medications to help reduce the risk of death from drug overdoses.
“This is part of a wider package of advice, information and support to help reduce the harms associated with drugs.
“Alongside this, we continue to support an approach which engages people with drug misuse issues in the recovery process.
“Over the last year, 165 people in Sunderland have so far successfully completed treatment for substance addiction and misuse and more than 1,000 continue to receive ongoing support.”
Coun Izzi Seccombe, chairman of the Local Government Association’s Community Wellbeing Board, said: “The biggest challenge we all face is an ageing cohort of drug users, who have not previously sought or had any treatment.
“As a result, they are prone to an accumulation of chronic physical and mental health conditions that make them more susceptible to dying through overdose.”