A DROP in funding for substance misuse treatment is contributing to a rise in drug and alcohol related deaths, experts have warned.

Oxfordshire County Council has cut spending on substance misuse services by around £1million since 2013, according to a response to a Freedom of Information request by treatment firm UK Addiction Treatment (UKAT).

The company says the fall in funding for support for some of the county’s most vulnerable people could be linked to a 32 per cent rise in drug-related deaths.

Founder of UKAT, Eytan Alexander, said: “Addiction is a debilitating psychiatric disorder.

“What those suffering with addiction need are far better availability and access to Government funded rehabilitation and detoxification centres with earlier interventions, not a slash in budget allocation because ultimately, when people engage in treatment, the whole community benefits.

“It’s difficult for Oxfordshire County Council to deny the link between the drop off in budget allocation for drug and alcohol treatment services and the rise in drug related deaths, and we hope for better spending decisions next year in order to help the most vulnerable in society.”

The county council’s total substance misuse budget was more than £8.6million in 2013/14, while its projected forecast spend in 2018/19 is just over £7.6million.

While the latest data from the Office of National Statistics shows the number of drug related deaths in Oxfordshire has increased from 40 between 2012 to 2014 to 53 between 2014 to 2016.

Oxfordshire County Council spokesman Martin Crabtree said: “Oxfordshire County Council is committed to supporting people affected by substance misuse.

“The council continues to invest in drug and alcohol services, whilst focusing on improving the value for money of local services.

“The local service is run by Turning Point and ensures appropriate treatment is available for those who wish to take advantage of it.

“This service is effective and has improved year on year, so we are now above the national average for drug and alcohol addiction services.

“Over 6,000 Oxfordshire residents have been treated by Turning Point since April 2015.

“Drug related deaths are always a tragedy.

“The number locally fluctuates year on year, and can be affected by a range of factors, though the number of drug related deaths in Oxfordshire is fewer than the national average.”

The council’s spending equates to 25 per cent of its ring-fenced Public Health Grant from the government this year, down from 27 per cent last year.

For more information on substance misuse, click here