Drug deaths in England and Wales hit record high

The rise in drug fatalities appears linked to an increase in deaths involving cocaine use Credit: PA

Drug deaths in England and Wales have surged to a record level, with official statistics showing 3,744 deaths involving both legal and illegal drugs recorded last year.

It is the highest number of drug poisoning deaths since comparable records began in 1993.

The rise appears to be partly due to an increase in fatalities involving cocaine.

The figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS), show there were 371 deaths involving cocaine - a rise of 16% on 2015 - despite usage of the drug remaining relatively steady.

Estimates based on the Crime Survey for England and Wales indicate that the proportion of adults aged 16 to 59 using cocaine in powder form has remained broadly steady at just over 2%.

Statisticians suggested the increased number of deaths could be due to greater purity of the drug.

The ONS report said: "The National Crime Agency reports that there was a significant increase in both crack and powder cocaine purity at all levels in 2016, including user-level, which may partly explain the increase in deaths relating to cocaine."

Cocaine-related mortality rates have been increasing year-on-year, reaching a record high of 6.4 deaths per one million population.