DEATHS from drug and alcohol misuse in Bury are among the highest in the country, startling new research has found.

But abuse of such substances is only likely to have increased under the ongoing coronavirus lockdown, a regional addiction treatment centre has warned, as people turn to drugs and alcohol to cope with heightened job insecurity, stress and anxiety.

Almost twice as many people die due to drug misuse in the borough, compared to the national average, figures from Public Health England (PHE) reveal ­— giving it the 14th highest rate of drug deaths in England, and the fourth highest in the North West.

Alcohol-specific deaths in Bury, meanwhile, are around 40 per cent above the average frequency in England.

Hospital admissions in Bury due to alcohol-related conditions also outstrip those seen across the rest of the country.

And around 1,200 years of life were lost in Bury due to alcohol-related conditions in 2018.

In light of these pre-existing and “significant challenges”, public investment in drug and alcohol treatment must continue to be a priority in the wake of Covid-19, Martin Preston, the founder and CEO of Delamere addiction treatment clinic, has urged.

Mr Preston, who is in recovery for from alcohol and drug dependency himself, said: “There have been big pushes to improve things and that must continue even now there is bigger pressure on budgets than ever.

"The long term costs of not providing the right support are far greater than early and appropriately intensive help and intervention.

“It’s easy for addiction treatment investment to be quietly cut because compassion for those addicted to drink and drugs remains low."

A Bury Council spokesman said: “Bury is fully committed to tackling substance misuse within the community and it is a key public health priority.

“Bury has a substance misuse delivery multi-agency partnership which has a detailed action plan to tackle substance misuse.

"The five identified key priorities are: prevention and early intervention, reducing drug and alcohol related harm, building recovery, reducing drug and alcohol related crime, and managing availability and access.

“We have been working closely with our substance misuse provider Greater Manchester Mental Health Trust (GMMH) during the COVID-19 crisis to ensure services are adapted to continue to provide a safe and effective service.

"Services have responded by offering remote and virtual support to clients with excellent engagement and feedback to date.

"Bury Council has also been providing a range of self-help support information through the Bury Directory .

“There is no short term fix but Bury is committed to delivering on its plan to reduce the impact of drugs and alcohol to the people of Bury.”