There are record numbers of people dying from drugs in Salford, according to new figures released by the Government.
During the period 2001-2003, when recent records began, there were 29 Salford deaths associated with drug poisoning - defined as having a controlled drug mentioned on the death certificate. This was an official rate of 4.1. By 2013-2015 this had risen to 32 deaths, a rate of 4.6. But latest figures for 2014-16 show a rise to 41 deaths, a rate of 5.9.
For Salford women the rise is alarming, with 'only' seven deaths in 2001-2003, a rate of 2.3. Latest figures for 2014-2016 show this has almost doubled to 13 deaths, a rate of 4.0.
Drug-related death rates for men in Salford have also increased, from 21 deaths in the period 2001-2003, a rate of 5.8, to 28 deaths during 2014-2016, a rate of 7.6.
Overall, Greater Manchester recorded 479 people dying from illegal drugs during 2014-2016, the highest in the North West, and in record numbers.
Both the Government and the Local Government Association are attributing the figures to drug users getting older but this is hotly disputed by the Transform Drug Policy Foundation, which calls the figures a direct result of the Home Office's "scandalous approach to drugs".
Councillor Izzi Seccombe, Chairman of the Local Government Association's Community Wellbeing Board, says..."The record-high number of drug-related deaths is a major concern to councils and a worrying public health challenge...
"The biggest challenge we all face is an ageing cohort of drug users, who have not previously sought or had any treatment" he adds "As a result, they are prone to an accumulation of chronic physical and mental health conditions that make them more susceptible to dying through overdose."
The Transform Drug Policy Foundation trashes this, arguing that countries like Portugal and Switzerland, which have the same age range of drug users record a fraction of the death rate that Britain has...
"The Government must accept responsibility for record numbers of people dying from overdoses year after year" says Transform's Martin Powell "This unacceptably high level of deaths is a direct result of the Home Office's scandalous approach to drugs.
"Other countries value the lives of vulnerable people who use drugs enough to implement and fund many measures proven to save lives, like decriminalising drug users, safer drug consumption rooms and prescribing heroin" he adds "All recommended by the Government's own expert body, the ACMD. None delivered by the Government."
At the local level, Salford City Council is this year making £135,000 cuts to public health funding...and last week 'deleted' 8.5 full time equivalent posts in its Health Improvement Team.
Things, as they say, can only get worse...
Main graphic shows detail from a painting by Salford artist Joe Coffey