Figures released by NHS Scotland this week show that in the 2017 period, 934 people died a drug related death in Scotland, an eight per cent increase on the year before.
And 22 of those deaths happened in Dumfries and Galloway – the area’s highest ever figure in a 10 year period.
Heroin was the biggest regional killer, claiming 14 people.
Other life takers included cocaine, which took two lives and ecstasy, which claimed one.
Dr Andrew Fraser, director of public health science at NHS Health Scotland, said: “No-one makes the conscious choice to become drug-dependent, and no-one chooses a pathway that risks their life ending tragically and early.
“Coming off, and staying off, drugs is hard. But it is possible. The evidence shows that our first line of defence against drug related deaths should be to reduce harm – accessing support and entering effective treatment is a key component of this.”
He added: “Some drug related harm is immediate and short term, such as injection-related infections. Many other harms, like long term physical and mental ill health, are more enduring and require sustained and often intense support.”
He added: “Drug use is commonly a sign of other issues, such as lack of hope from an early age in life, experiences of trauma, family breakdown and poverty.
“In addressing drug use, we need to address other factors in a person’s life if we are to reduce drug related deaths in Scotland, creating and using every opportunity to engage people for the longer term.”
The figures have alarmed local MSP Finlay Carson, who has branded them ‘absolutely appalling.’
He said: “With another record high number of drug deaths in Dumfries and Galloway, it is clear that current strategies have not worked.
“A lack of action only causes pain for family and friends for those who tragically lose their lives to drugs.
“We need to help people beat their addictions, rather than setting them up on permanent methadone programmes.”
He added: “The statistics must act as a wake up call once and for all for a full review of drugs policy, in order to bring the number of deaths down locally and across Scotland.”