THE number of drug-related deaths in the county has hit an all-time high – with new figures showing the number of deaths due to drug misuse has risen by 60 per cent since 2011.

An ageing population of heroin users is one of the main factors in the rise in deaths, experts say.

A total of 167 people died due to drug poisoning and drug misuse in Worcestershire between 2016 and 2018 – an increase of almost 50 per cent on the number of deaths between 2011 and 2013.

The most drug-related deaths occurred in Worcester with a total of 40 recorded between 2016 and 2018.

Almost a quarter of all the deaths in Worcestershire due to drug poisoning in the last three years and just over 23 per cent of deaths due to drug misuse occurred in the city.

The number of drug-related deaths increased by a massive 142 per cent across Wychavon – up from 14 between 2011 and 2013 to 34 deaths between 2016 and 2018.

Dr Kathryn Cobain, interim director of Public Health at Worcestershire County Council, said: “Sadly in Worcestershire, as is the case nationally, we have seen an increased number of drug related deaths.

“This is due to a number of factors, including an ageing population of heroin users.”

“In line with national strategy, our focus remains to reduce demand, restrict supply, build opportunities for recovery and limit exposure to harm.

“To meet these aims we are working closely with GP’s, pharmacists and other primary care services to provide a network of support to provide relevant and localised help to those affected by substance misuse.”

The latest figures also showed a disparity between the number of male and female deaths – with 111 men dying between 2016 and 2018 compared to 56 women during the same period.

The number of men who died a drug-related death in the last three years doubled from 74 between 2011 and 2013.

The figures, provided by the Office for National Statistics (ONS), cover deaths involving controlled and non-controlled drugs as well prescription and over-the-counter medicine and include accidents and suicides involving drugs plus complications that arise from injecting drugs.

The number of deaths from drug poisoning in England and Wales last year was the highest since records began in 1993 and the number of deaths between 2017 and 2018 was the steepest annual increase ever.

More than half of the deaths were as a result of opiates such as heroin, while deaths from psychoactive substances – formerly known as legal highs – doubled to 125.

Cocaine was the cause of 637 deaths in England and Wales, almost double the number of deaths in 2015. The number of deaths increased for the seventh year in a row.