Drugs deaths in Dorset have reached an all-time high, figures show.

Data from the Office for National Statistics revealed there were 59 drug-related deaths in the Dorset Council area last year.

That’s up from 49 last year and more than double the number of deaths recorded in 2019 (27).

They were among 871 drug-related deaths registered in the South West with figures rising every year since 2011.

Charities have criticised the Government over a lack of action on drug deaths across England and Wales with one calling the latest figures “an utter disgrace”.

Niamh Eastwood, executive director of Release, the national centre for drugs expertise, said every drug-related death is avoidable.

“It is an utter disgrace that we are again talking about record breaking drug deaths," she added.

"Drug deaths are a public health emergency across the UK that can and must be adequately addressed. Government inaction is a political choice."

The ONS said the overall rising trend over the past decade has been driven primarily by deaths involving opiates, but also those involving other substances such as cocaine.

Just under half of the drug deaths registered across England and Wales last year involved an opiate.

Dr David Bremner, medical director for the substance abuse group at charity Turning Point, called for the Government to continue to invest in “life-saving” health, housing and social care services.

He said: “If these were cancer deaths increasing at this rate, we would expect action at a certain pace that I believe we should expect the same for persons with addiction."

The ONS figures show that the age standardised mortality rate – which accounts for age and population size – stood at 7.6 deaths per 100,000 people in Dorset between 2019 and 2021: roughly in line with the national average of 7.9.

A spokesperson for the UK Government said they had launched a ‘drug strategy’ to rebuild treatment services and tackle supply chains.

They said: “This will help to prevent nearly 1,000 deaths, deliver over 54,500 new treatment places – a 19% increase on current numbers – and support 24,000 more people into recovery from substance dependency.

“This funding is additional to the annual public health grant spend and builds on the £80 million put into treatment services in 2021 which worked to decrease drug-related deaths by helping services distribute more naloxone, which can help reverse opiate overdoses.”