A dozen drug-related deaths were recorded in Barrow last year, figures show.

Charities have criticised the Government over a lack of action on drug deaths across England and Wales – which have reached another record high – with experts calling the latest figures an "utter disgrace".

Data from the Office for National Statistics show 12 deaths related to drug poisoning were registered in Barrow in 2021, down from 17 the previous year.

They were among 4,859 drug poisoning deaths registered across England and Wales last year – the ninth consecutive rise and the highest number since records began more than a quarter of a century ago in 1993.

The figures cover drug abuse and dependence, fatal accidents, suicides and complications involving controlled and non-controlled drugs, prescription and over-the-counter medications.

Of the drug deaths recorded nationally last year, 3,060 (63%) were due to misuse, meaning they involved illegal drugs, or were a result of drug abuse or dependence – including 11 in Barrow.

Around half of the deaths registered nationally in 2021 will have occurred in previous years due to death registration delays, the ONS said.

Cumbria Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) Peter McCall differentiated between demand and supply of drugs as being two separate issues.

He said that demand was being tackled effectively by organisations in Barrow such as The Well and CADAS, and was not a police matter.

"The bad thing is that often these drug-related deaths are not young people but people that have been taking drugs for a long time and their bodies cannot keep up with it any longer," he said.

"People can't continue to use these drugs and it not catch up with them.

"The main police battle is about stopping supply and this year we have had quite a lot of success in locking up drug dealers. It is a constant battle." 

While Mr McCall said the police are targeting drug dealers, he also said: "People in possession of drugs are also breaking the law. People have been taking stuff that they shouldn't take so we can never be complacent about drugs. 

"One worrying thing is the perspective some people have with gateway drugs. We are catching far more people now that are driving with drugs. It is really scary."

Mr McCall is talking about drugs such as cocaine, which are more often taken socially at parties by people that would not see themselves as addicts. 

READ MORE: Cocaine deaths rise - but could legal drugs save lives in Cumbria?

The ONS said the overall rising trend over the past decade has been driven primarily by deaths involving opiates, but also those involving other substances such as cocaine.

The ONS figures show that the age standardised mortality rate – which accounts for age and population size – stood at 20.8 deaths per 100,000 people in Barrow between 2019 and 2021, well above the rate for England, of 7.9.

A UK Government spokesman said its drug strategy will help rebuild drug treatment services and tackle criminal supply chains.

He added: “This will help to prevent nearly 1,000 deaths, deliver over 54,500 new treatment places – a 19% increase on current numbers – and support 24,000 more people into recovery from substance dependency.“This funding is additional to the annual public health grant spend and builds on the £80 million put into treatment services in 2021 which worked to decrease drug-related deaths by helping services distribute more naloxone, which can help reverse opiate overdoses.”