BOURNEMOUTH has the ninth highest rate for drug-related deaths in England and Wales, new figures show.

The Office for National Statistics data shows that 81 drug poisoning deaths were registered in the borough between 2015 and 2017, a rate of 14.3 per 100,000 people, compared with a national average rate of 6.6.

This places Bournemouth ahead of major cities including London, Liverpool and Manchester, but alongside a number of other seaside towns.

Karen Tyrell, executive director of alcohol and drug charity Addaction, said: "The truth is that most drug-related deaths are preventable.

"People who use opioids often have cumulative physical and mental health problems.

"Most of them have had very difficult, often traumatic lives and we're letting them down if we don't give them the best care that we can.

"Nobody wakes up in the morning and decides to become dependent on drugs.

"Everyone deserves help, and we know that every person can recover with the right support."

The only local authority areas above Bournemouth for drug poisoning were Blackpool, Hartlepool, Hastings, Middlesbrough, Neath Port Talbot, Norwich, Scarborough and Swansea, and borough was tied with Gosport, Hull and Portsmouth.

The rate is up from a low point of eight per 100,000 between 2003 and 2005. And even in 2012-14 the rate was 9.3.

Drug poisoning deaths include those caused by controlled and non-controlled drugs, prescription and over-the-counter medication.

As well as deaths from drug abuse and dependence, figures include accidents and suicides involving drug poisoning as well as complications of drug abuse, such as deep vein thrombosis or septicaemia from intravenous drug use.

Separate stats cover drug misuse deaths – only those involving drug abuse, drug dependence or controlled substances. Of the 81 drug poisoning deaths in Bournemouth between 2015 and 2017, 73 per cent were registered as being down to misuse.

By this measure Bournemouth's death rate was 10.4 per 100,000 people, placing it 12th highest in England and Wales.

Information on the type of drugs recorded as being a factor in deaths is not released by local authority.

But figures for the whole of England and Wales show that heroine and morphine were the most common drugs in drug-related deaths.

They were registered in 1,164 deaths in 2017, however this was down on the previous year and the first year-on-year drop since 2012. Antidepressants, a factor in 484 deaths, were the next biggest killer. There were 432 cocaine-related deaths, nearly four times the level in 2011.

ONS health analysis statistician Ellie Osborn said: "The figures published today show that the level of drug poisoning 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, up for the sixth consecutive year."