DARLINGTON is 'failing to protect' some of the most vulnerable people in society by neglecting to provide lifesaving medicine for drug users.

Release, the national centre of expertise on drugs, said Darlington Borough Council was the worst area in the country at providing take-home antidotes to opioid-based drugs.

And despite Government guidance requiring local authorities to give drug users a specialist medication to counter the effects of overdose, the council has no plans to introduce it, research found.

With deaths due to drugs at a record high in England, the Release report said Darlington Borough Council was the worst area in the country at providing the vital medicine.

There were four opiate-related overdose deaths registered in Darlington, and 1,829 across England, in 2017.

To help reduce such deaths most local authorities have take-home naloxone programmes for drug users to take home, typically without a prescription, to reverse the effects of overdose to those who need it.

Release said its research showed that Darlington council did not report giving take-home naloxone to anyone before it was surveyed – which it said was 'particularly shameful' given that naloxone is cheap to buy and has no potential to misuse.

Following Freedom of Information requests, Release found that 149 of 152 local authorities provided take-home naloxone.

The Government's drug strategy outlines that all local areas must have 'appropriate naloxone provision in place'.

Darlington was the only local authority in England which did not report having either a take-home naloxone programme – or any plans to implement one.

Zoe Carre, Policy Researcher at Release, stated: “There is a crisis of drug-related deaths in this country and many local authorities are failing to protect people from fatally overdosing on opioids, such as heroin.

"The amount of take-home naloxone given out nationally has been abysmally low.

"This life-saving medication is not reaching those who most need it.

“People who use drugs are an extremely stigmatised group in society, facing significant health risks which are exacerbated by the Government’s ideological abstinence-focused approach to drug use.

"If any other group of people were needlessly facing barriers to accessing a cheap and effective life-saving medication, there would be widespread public outrage.”

Miriam Davidson, Darlington Borough Council’s director of public health, said: “Naloxone is available to people in Darlington who need it. Our drugs treatment recovery service provider has a supply of naloxone that can be given out if they think someone is particularly at risk.

“We will be reviewing our substance misuse service later this year.

" As part of that, we will consider the provision of naloxone, along with all other aspects of the service.”