New figures released by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) show 4.6 deaths per 100,000 people were due to heroin or morphine misuse in 2016 - compared to an English average of 1.7.
More than half of the 10 towns and cities with the highest rates of fatalities related to the substances are coastal holiday resorts, said the ONS. While Scarborough sits just outside the top 10, at 14th, the borough shares characteristics with many of those with the highest levels - in particular, deprivation.
The ONS said higher levels of deprivation could be linked to increased drug use, which was also highlighted in a report by Public Health England last year which said “Social factors, including housing, employment and deprivation, are associated with substance misuse and these social factors moderate drug treatment outcomes.”
Experts also identified a “deepening of socio-economic deprivation since the financial crisis of 2008” as a possible factor.
North Yorkshire’s Director of Public Health, Dr Lincoln Sargeant, said around 3,000 people access treatment across the county a year, with Scarborough and Harrogate seeing the most cases.
He told The Yorkshire Post that much of work done by recovery service North Yorkshire Horizons at rehabilitating drug users also addressed causes related to social factors.
“When somebody accesses treatment we have a system that helps support that person back into work and sort out their housing so the factors that helped them to spiral into substance misuse are also tackled.”
The service will shortly begin to provide opioid users with Naloxone, a medication which can block the effects of opioid, especially in an overdose situation. Health services across the area also have an “early earning alert protocol” to warn drug users, if, for example, a contaminated batch of drugs enters the market.
Dr Sargeant added: “All deaths are a tragedy for that person and their family. We are working with Horizons to identify the things that we can do to prevent drug use becoming fatal.”
Inspector Graeme Kynman of North Yorkshire Police’s Scarborough Command said: “Wherever possible we will work with those individuals that come to our notice to overcome their drug related problems and live healthy and crime free lives. We will continue to provide access routes into treatment and other effective interventions that will enhance the individual’s chances of reaching their full potential.”
A spokeswoman for Scarborough Borough Council said it takes the problems related to drug misuse and the impact they have on residents “very seriously.”
“While largely unseen by the thousands of people that enjoy visiting the Borough of Scarborough every year, we fully recognise the damage that drugs misuse can cause in our communities.
“Our community impact team continues to take a robust approach by working with North Yorkshire Police to do everything possible to minimise drug use throughout our borough. Community intelligence is a very important part of this process and we encourage the public to report any suspicious activity to the police.
“We also work with public health partners to ensure that those individuals who need help to overcome their drug related problems are referred to the most appropriate organisations.”
Elsewhere in Yorkshire, other towns and cities with death rates above the English average include Doncaster with 3.3 deaths per 100,000.; York and Hull, both with 3.2; Leeds with 2.7; Sheffield and Bradford with 2.5; Wakefield with 2.2; Barnsley with 1.9.
Blackpool had the highest death rate across England and Wales, with 14 heroin and/or morphine misuse deaths per 100,000 people in 2016, according to the report.
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 per cent, on 2015, and the highest number since comparable data started in 1993.
The ONS report referred to the “Trainspotting Generation”, which became addicted to heroin in the 1980s and 1990s, as a possible explanation for why the highest rate of death from drugs misuse was among 40 to 49-year-olds in 2016.