WEYMOUTH and Portland has the second-highest number of drug-related deaths in the country.

New data revealed by the Office for National Statistics today shows the borough is second only to Blackpool and that drug misuse deaths are almost double what they were 20 years ago.

Deaths as a result of drug misuse in Weymouth and Portland almost doubled between the periods 2009-2011 and 2012-2014.

It has the second-highest rate in the country, with Hartlepool third, Middlesbrough fourth and Portsmouth fifth.

There were 10 deaths as a result of drug poisoning in the borough in the first time period and 18 deaths between 2012 and 2014.

Equivalent increases were not seen elsewhere in the county, where rates largely remained static, with only West Dorset and Bournemouth showing an increase.

This was a rise of 14 per cent in West Dorset and 19 per cent in Bournemouth, considerably lower than the Weymouth and Portland increase.

Meanwhile, men in Dorset are more than twice as likely as women to be admitted to hospital as a result of drug-related mental health issues.

Figures from the Health and Social Care Information Centre revealed that men accounted for 71 per cent of admissions in the Dorset County Council authority area where the primary diagnosis was of drug-related mental health and behavioural disorders in the years 2013/14 and 2014/15.

There was a 22 per cent increase in admissions across both genders where the primary or secondary diagnosis was drug-related between the two years, with 378 admissions in 2014/15 compared to 309 in 2013/14.

Dr Nicky Cleave, assistant director of Public Health Dorset, said: "Although patterns of drug use change over time and we’re seeing fewer people access service for opiate drugs, such as heroin, men have historically been more prone to taking drugs than women."

Martin Tod, chief executive of the Men's Health Forum, said that the Dorset figures reflected the national picture in terms of men being more at risk.

He added: "The problem is that it is often too hard for men to get the help and support they need at an early stage before things hit crisis levels.

"There is a general challenge for mental health services, which is that often men will deal with difficulties by taking drugs or too much alcohol.

"We are trying to encourage men to talk more at the earliest stage of their problems.

"There is a real need for services that support men and women earlier, before we get to crisis point."

The research also found that there were more than 200 hospital admissions in Dorset as a result of poisoning by illicit drugs over the two year period, with 101 during 2013/14 and 103 during 2014/15.

Joyce Guest, chairman of Healthwatch Dorset, said that there was a need for mental health and drug services to "work together more closely".

She added: "Healthwatch Dorset has been gathering feedback from local people on their experience of mental health crisis care.

"One of the issues raised with us is the lack of support available for people who have a 'dual diagnosis' - that's a mental health illness alongside an alcohol and/or drug issue.

"It's really important for people to receive the care they need, when they need it, but sometimes the system makes that difficult.

"We would like to see more of a focus on treating the person, rather than treating the individual condition."

Each death is avoidable and tragic

Nick Wyer, Drug-related Death Coordinator for Dorset Police, said: “The rise in drug-related deaths in the Weymouth and Portland area mirrors the increase seen both in Dorset and across the country.

“While each death is both avoidable and tragic, it is important to note the number of individuals involved each year is thankfully small. Such small numbers do make it difficult to analyse and understand any trends.

“Dorset Police will continue to work with local authorities and partner agencies to record and monitor drug-related deaths with the aim of identifying ways to reduce such deaths in the community.”