DRUG deaths in Weymouth more than doubled in the space of the decade, new figures show.

Figures from the Office of National Statistics have revealed that the town had a drug death rate of 12.7 per 100,000 people between 2015-17 in comparison with 6.4 nationally and 4.8 in London.

These reflect a significant increase from more than 10 years ago in 2004-06 when the rate was 5.4.

Meanwhile, the death rate in West Dorset stayed the same during the same period of 7.8 per 100,000.

There were 70 deaths in the Dorset County Council area relating to drugs between 2015 and 2017, of which Weymouth and Portland accounted for 23 and West Dorset accounted for 20.

James Sainsbury, associate director of the Dorset operations for drug charity Addaction, said: “Harm reduction must be taken seriously and services such as needle exchanges need to be provided. Every death is a tragedy, a waste, and leaves a family in pain.

“The priority is to get more people connected with community services at the earliest possible stage.

“In terms of particular areas, we know that while deprivation doesn’t directly cause drug issues - it does increase the likelihood of drug dependency.

“We also know that treatment saves thousands of lives every year and it is vital more people engage with structured recovery programmes.

"These are complex cases and it’s important that local services work together to tackle wider issues like housing and employment."

Dr Emily Finch, vice chairwoman of the Royal College of Psychiatrists’ addictions faculty, said that the figures were a "cause for concern".

Dr Finch blamed the rise on a "30 per cent cut in the national budget for addiction services”.

Ellie Osborn, Health Analysis Statistician at Office for National Statistics, said: “The figures published today show that the level of drug deaths in 2017 remained stable.

“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."

"Our new in-depth study of coroners’ records report shows that there are common characteristics of drug-related deaths.

“These findings combined can be used to develop initiatives and policies that are targeted to support those at greatest risk of drug addiction.”

The increase comes as the Dorset Echo reported earlier this year that civic chiefs were considering plans for professionally supervised ‘drug consumption room’ to be provided in Weymouth where addicts can take drugs safely in an effort to reduce the amount of drug-related deaths.

In response, Nick Wyer, pan-Dorset drug-related death coordinator for Dorset Police, said that Dorset Police and its partners “remain determined to take any action possible to reduce the number of drug-related deaths”.

Mr Wyer added: "A Dorset-wide drug and alcohol strategy is in place to address the challenges and identify learning that may help in reducing the number of these deaths across the county.

"Protecting people at risk of harm, which includes tackling the harm caused by drug misuse and supply, is a priority for Dorset Police.

"We fully understand from speaking with residents how it impacts on the community, but this issue can be seen in many towns across the country.”

Cllr Steve Butler, Dorset County Council’s cabinet member for safeguarding, added: “Any death related to substance misuse is a tragedy, and we take the issue of drug-related deaths extremely seriously in Dorset.

“We have a range of initiatives in place to reduce the chances of people dying from substance use including educating young people about the risks.

“We are continuously reviewing our services to make sure the right support is offered at the right time to those who need them the most.”

To find out what you can do to tackle drugs and the support available, visit edp.org.uk/reach or call 0800 0434656.