COCAINE deaths in lockdown hit record highs at more than five times the number killed a decade ago, new data revealed.
There were 777 deaths involving the drug in England and Wales last year, nearly 10 per cent higher than in 2019 and dwarfing the 144 who died in 2010.
Nearly 80 per cent of those killed by it last year were men, the Office for National Statistics data showed.
The total who died from drug overdoses last year hit 4,561 – the highest since records began, and double the number who died 10 years ago.
Heroin accounted for half of deaths and more than twice as many men died than women.
People born in the 1970s, known as Generation X, accounted for the majority of deaths – and have done for the last 25 years.
And people in the North are far more likely to die from an overdose than people in the South.
In the North-East there were 104.6 drug deaths per million people, compared with 33.1 deaths per million in London.
The ONS said: “Drug-related deaths have been on an upward trend for the past decade.
“The overall trend is driven primarily by deaths involving opiates, but also an increase in deaths involving other substances like cocaine.
“This is likely to be a direct consequence of the increasing prevalence in cocaine use, also seen across Europe. Prices are low and purity is high.
“There is an ageing cohort of drug users, likely to be suffering from the effects of long-term drug use and becoming increasingly susceptible to a fatal overdose.”
Dr Emily Finch, of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, said: “Years of cuts have left addictions services ill-equipped to treat people and prevent these deaths from rising.
“Disconnecting NHS mental health services from addiction services is destroying lives and fuelling the increase in deaths.”
Last night, the Department of Health said more frontline staff may start using lifesaving medicine to reverse the effects of a heroin overdose.
An eight-week consultation has been launched to allow paramedics, police and prison officers to carry naloxone, which can revive someone.
While it can be legally administered by anyone during an emergency, its supply is currently tightly controlled.
Health Secretary Sajid Javid said: “Drug misuse destroys lives and has a devastating impact on health, livelihoods and families.
“To prevent people dying from drug abuse we need to make sure the right treatment and medicines are available, which is why we’re launching this consultation on naloxone.”
Home Secretary Priti Patel added: “Allowing police officers and other frontline workers to carry naloxone would mean more lives are saved from this terrible scourge.”