DRUGS experts have raised concerns that coronavirus lockdown periods could lead to an increase in prescriptions and general drug use.

Analysis for the Global Recovery Initiatives Foundation found areas of County Durham, Cleveland, Tyne and Wear and Northumberland were opioid prescribing hotspots.

The Foundation, which supports organisations that help people in recovery from substance use disorders, said the research had uncovered a worrying reverse from previous declining rates despite an increase in government regulation.

Nationally there was a one per cent increase in opioid prescribing during the first Covid-19 national lockdown, compared to the period of March to June in 2019.

But some areas, such as Greater London and Nottinghamshire, saw a four per cent increase in opioid prescriptions.

Data from the UK poll also showed 23 per cent of people either started taking or increased substance use such as prescription drugs, alcohol and illegal drugs due to the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The poll, which surveyed 2,081 people across the UK, found managing stress, less access to usual support networks and loneliness were the main drivers for this shift in behaviour.

Jan Brown, CEO of Global Recovery Initiatives Foundation, said lockdown could further increase prescribing rates due to lack of access to pain management services.

She said: “Over the years we have seen the number of drug-related deaths rise and the last thing we want is for more people to be unnecessarily reliant on these drugs in the long-term.

“We need to increase education, encourage dialogue, and support addiction and recovery services, especially evidence-based services, that could mean the difference between life and death for those who struggle with substance use.”

GRI and the Amy Winehouse Foundation teamed up with Better Noise Films to launch a new film SNO BABIES, which tells a gripping and emotive story about the grim realities of addiction and the triumph and challenges of recovery from substance use disorders.

Proceeds from the sale of the film and soundtrack, estimated to be about £40,000, will go directly towards funding Amy Winehouse Foundation’s support services for people in early recovery from substance use disorders.