Seaside resorts among hotspots for heroin and morphine deaths

The seaside resort of Bournemouth made the top 10 Credit: ITV Meridian

Five towns and cities in the South East are among those in the UK with the highest rate of deaths from heroin and morphine misuse.

Bournemouth, Portsmouth, Reading, Thanet and Hastings have been ranked in the top 10 hotspots according to a report by the Office of National Statistics.

The report suggests a link between drug misuse and areas with high levels of deprivation.

Six of the 10 towns and cities, with the highest rates of fatalities related to the substances, are coastal holiday resorts.

Blackpool had the highest death rate, with 14 heroin and/or morphine misuse deaths per 100,000 people in 2016, according to the report.

This compares with national averages of 1.7 in England and 2.3 in Wales.

The fortunes of towns and cities such as Portsmouth and Hastings have been in decline since traditional coastal holidays fell out of favour in the 1960s, with the advent of package holidays abroad, the ONS said.

In 2016, analysis by the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs concluded that a probable cause of recent increases in drug-related deaths is the existence of a prematurely ageing cohort of people who have been using heroin since the 1980s and 1990s.

Experts also identified a "deepening of socio-economic deprivation since the financial crisis of 2008" as a possible factor.

There were 3,744 drug poisoning deaths, involving both legal and illegal drugs, registered in 2016 in England and Wales.

This was up by 70, or 2%, on 2015, and the highest number since comparable data started in 1993.

The city of Portsmouth also made the top 10 Credit: ITV Meridian