Record numbers of people are dying from drug poisoning, official figures reveal.
And the North East has the highest mortality rate from drug misues in the country.
There was a sharp jump in fatalities involving cocaine last year, while the number of deaths linked to antidepressants was at its highest level for 15 years.
Data published by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) show there were 3,346 drug poisoning deaths registered in England and Wales in 2014, the highest since comparable records began in 1993.
The mortality rate from drug misuse was the highest ever recorded, at 39.9 deaths per million population.
Statisticians said the increase in mortality rate for all drug-related deaths for both men and women is likely to be related to the availability and consumption of heroin and morphine.
Although we are seeing fewer people year on year using heroin, in particular young people, any death related to drugs is a tragedy.Department of Health spokeswoman
Deaths involving cocaine increased to 247 from 169 the previous year, an increase of almost 50%, with research suggesting an increase in purity has been a factor in the trend.
The ONS report said: “The National Crime Agency suggests there has been a gradual increase in user-level cocaine purity over the last two years, and there were marked regional variations in the purity of crack cocaine. These two factors are likely to be contributing to the increase in deaths involving cocaine.”
There were 517 deaths involving antidepressants in 2014, the highest number since 1999. Statisticians said people aged between 40 and 69 account for the majority of the increase.
The findings included:
• Deaths involving heroin and/or morphine increased by almost two-thirds between 2012 and 2014, from 579 to 952.
• There were 67 deaths involving new psychoactive drugs (NPS) - sometimes referred to as “legal highs” or designer drugs - in 2014, but initial indications suggest an upward trend in NPS-linked fatalities has now stabilised.
• In England there was a 17% rise in the drug misuse mortality rate in 2014, compared to a fall of 16% in Wales.
• The North East had the highest mortality rate from drug misuse for the second year running, while London had the lowest.
Drug misuse deaths are defined as fatalities where the underlying cause is drug abuse or dependence or deaths where the underlying cause is drug poisoning.
A Department of Health spokeswoman said: “Although we are seeing fewer people year on year using heroin, in particular young people, any death related to drugs is a tragedy.
“Our drugs strategy is about helping people get off drugs and stay off them for good, and we will continue to help local authorities give tailored treatment to users.”