Public health bosses fear the cost of living crisis could trigger increased rates of alcohol addiction and drug dependency in Norfolk.

There are concerns difficult times could lead to people seeking solace in drink and drugs - and putting their lives at risk.

Latest statistics show that Norfolk has an estimated 9,000 people who are dependent on alcohol and between 4,000 to 5,000 users of opiates and/or crack cocaine.

A new strategic substance misuse partnership is being set up so Norfolk County Council and other organisations such as Norfolk police and NHS services can better respond to drug and alcohol issues.

The idea is that it would combine prevention, treatment and enforcement and Diane Steiner, deputy director of public health, told councillors the cost of living crisis could increase the number of people needing help.

Speaking at Friday's meeting of the council's people and communities select committee, she said: "In terms of the cost of living issues, we may well see an increase in demand.

"There is always a lag between when people start using substances in an unhealthy way, or to mitigate other pressures in their lives, and then to get to the point where they realise they have an issue and then, to when they are ready to accept and seek treatment.

"So we may not see an instant rise, in that respect."

Eastern Daily Press: Green county councillor Paul NealeGreen county councillor Paul Neale (Image: Norwich Green Party)

Paul Neale, Green county councillor, repeated a call his party colleagues at Norwich City Council have previously made - for the creation of safe drug 'consumption' spaces.

Mr Neale said if people were able to take drugs in an environment where care was at hand, that could reduce deaths.

Mrs Steiner said the legislation was not in place to allow that to happen, but that the Association of Directors of Public Health had recommended that the government permit trials of them.

Eastern Daily Press: Labour county councillor Brenda JonesLabour county councillor Brenda Jones (Image: Labour Party)

Brenda Jones, Labour county councillor, said it was a "no-brainer" to introduce such rooms.

She said many people with mental health problems turned to drugs to self-medicate and without tackling issues such as poverty and deprivation, it would be difficult to bring down misuse.