One person a month is dying on South Tyneside due to drug misuse, shocking new figures reveal.
The latest report into drug deaths from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) shows that there were 28 deaths in the borough between 2014 and 2016.
That number is however down from 29 in 2013 to 2015.
Of the 28 who died due to drug misuse, 21 were men and seven were women.
In neighbouring Sunderland, there were 52 deaths in the past two years, while in North Tyneside there were 47.
Between 2014 and 2016 there were 532 deaths in the region and a total of 6,803 nationally, up by almost 600 on 2013 to 2015’s figures.
The North East has the highest mortality rate, with 77.4 deaths due to drugs per million population, a 13% increase from 2015, compared to 42.9 deaths per million population in England.
A South Tyneside Council spokeswoman said: “Any drug related death in South Tyneside is a tragedy and reducing this figure is a priority for South Tyneside Council.
“National figures have highlighted that increased numbers of deaths are attributed essentially to the illicit use of heroin and/or morphine.
“The figures for South Tyneside are below those of neighbouring authorities but we will continue to make every effort to tackle drug misuse across the borough and reduce this figure still further.”
She added: “A sophisticated and well-developed structure of treatment service providers has been established by the council, which is a proven way of assisting people to put drug misuse behind them as well as preventing drug-related deaths.
“Anyone needing advice and support is asked to contact the national drug helpline on 0800 77 66 00.”
Coun Izzi Seccombe, chairman of the Local Government Association’s Community Wellbeing Board, said: “The biggest challenge we all face is an ageing cohort of drug users, who have not previously sought or had any treatment.
“As a result, they are prone to an accumulation of chronic physical and mental health conditions that make them more susceptible to dying through overdose.”
“Councils are committed to ensuring drug users get the right support and treatment, and spend more on drug and alcohol treatment than in any other area of public health.
“But it is essential that we engage those not already in drug treatment.”