Norwich has been named as having the second highest number of drug-poisoning deaths in the country in latest figures.

Eastern Daily Press: Dr Louise Smith, Norfolk County Council's director for Public Health. Picture: ANTONY KELLYDr Louise Smith, Norfolk County Council's director for Public Health. Picture: ANTONY KELLY (Image: Archant Norfolk 2015)

The city was also found to be the fourth worst for deaths related to drug misuse, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

It comes at a time that drugs deaths in the east of England reached the highest number and highest annual increase since records began back in 1993.

The trend was seen across England and Wales.

Analysis of ONS data by addiction treatment experts UK Addiction Treatment (UKAT) shows that the east has seen a 20pc rise in drug poisoning deaths in the last five years, when at the same time, UKAT's data reveals an £8m cut to drug and alcohol treatment budgets in the same time period.

Between 2016-18, drug poisoning deaths across the east reached a record high of 1,059, up from 958 between 2015-17 and up from just 885 in 2013-15.

In Norwich this was 21 people per 100,000 population - only beaten by Blackpool with 24. And for Norfolk overall, drug deaths rose by 54pc in the last five years.

Suffolk was the only area in the east with a reduction in the number of drug deaths over the last five years, reducing from 41 back in 2013-15 to 35 in 2016-18.

Eytan Alexander, managing director of UKAT, said: "These figures are saddening but unsurprising. We've highlighted the drastic reduction in budget cuts to substance misuse services every year since 2013 and unfortunately, these figures now show the impact this is having on the most vulnerable people living across the east.

"It cannot be coincidence that as councils here slash drug and alcohol treatment budgets by £8m over six years, the highest number of people on record lose their lives to drugs. We urge councils across the east to invest in effective drug and alcohol services next year to avoid more loss of life.

"We must remember that these aren't just numbers; they're people, they're someone's mother, father, child or friend and we can't stress enough the value of investing in addiction treatment."

Dr Louise Smith, director of public health said at Norfolk County Council, said: "Any drug related death or poisoning is an extremely sad event and there is a need to continue work in partnership to reduce the number we have in Norfolk.

"A major national review of drug related deaths concluded that the increase is down to multiple factors including the age, immune system and respiratory health of some cohorts of opiate and opioid users, access to treatment and the supply of illicit drugs."

Vicki Markiewicz, executive director of Change Grow Live - which provides drug and alcohol treatment tin Norfolk - said: "Each and every life lost to drugs is a tragedy that has a profound impact on families and communities. We know being in treatment helps protect against drug-related deaths and that most people dying from drug misuse are not engaged with treatment. That is why a key part of the work that Change Grow Live does in Norfolk is to engage more people in need of help with our services. As a result, we have successfully engaged 1,141 new people with vital treatment services in the last year."

"We are seeing an ageing cohort of people using drugs accessing our services in a state of severe physical ill health. This heightens the risk of death from acute illness, exacerbated by drug misuse. In response, we continue to prioritise the distribution of life-saving naloxone kits, as well as getting people onto a stable opioid replacement dose."

- If you would like to talk to someone about your own or someone else drug or alcohol misuse, call CGL 01603 514096.