AYRSHIRE and Arran, Lothian, Fife, the Borders, and Dumfries and Galloway have all been identified as Scotland’s drug death hotspots.

Analysis shows that these areas have seen fatalities increase by as much as 400 per cent over 10 years. Charities are now calling for an urgent investigation of the data to understand the dramatic regional differences.

Last week, figures released by the National Office of Records showed there had been 867 drug-related deaths in Scotland, a rise of 23 per cent on 2015 and more than double the 421 figure in 2006. Figures show the majority of deaths involve heroin, methadone and ‘poly-drug’ use.

However, further analysis of the NHS health board area figures shows that while the largest number of deaths are reported in Scotland’s cities and surrounding central belt areas, dramatic increases have taken place across the country since 2006.

In the Borders, deaths rose from just two in 2006 to 10 a decade later, a rise of 400 per cent. Deaths in both Ayrshire and Arran have increased by 240 per cent, with just 25 deaths in 2006 and 85 in 2016. The percentage is the same in Dumfries and Galloway where deaths rose from five to 17. In Lothian, it rose 178 per cent from 46 to 128 and in Fife the increase was 150 per cent from 18 to 45.

The Scottish Drugs Forum also raised concerns that 16 of the 32 local authorities reported record rises in deaths including a number of council areas which almost doubled their previous record figure, among them Falkirk, South Lanarkshire and North, East and South Ayrshire.

While some have suggested batches of counterfeit drugs could play a part in the most recent spikes, 10-year increases point to issues with inadequate treatment and support, according to drugs experts. Previous research has also suggested most deaths are happening within the so-called Trainspotting generation of addicts. However, although 38 per cent of the total were aged between 35 and 44, there was also a rise in deaths of those under 35.

David Liddell, chief executive of the Scottish Drugs Forum, claimed the sustained rise in deaths was “a national tragedy” and claimed that it was essential to “look at evidence” and study the areas most affected to understand what was driving the increase.

“These rises over the last 10 years clearly evidence significant failings in making necessary changes to our harm reduction, treatment and support services,” he said. “What should not be lost is the fact that the rise is not uniform. This needs investigated – not only to tell us what has gone wrong but also for further evidence of what might be done.”

Although he admitted that there had been “some positive developments” in parts of the country, many areas had failed to implement adequate support for drug users, who regularly found they were discriminated against and their concerns dismissed because of the stigma of being identified as an addict. Lack of funding means drug rehab places are often rationed, and many people spend months on a waiting list.

Stephen Wishart of Shelter’s Glasgow-based Time For Change project, which trains former homeless people, many of whom have experienced addiction, to work as peer mentors, stressed that solutions were possible.

He and his team are currently working with drug rehab centres to try to prevent those leaving from ending up homeless on the street when they are newly clean from heroin. Mentors, who have been addicts, are also helping advocate for former drug users to ensure they get the support they need. “Without working with people to tell us about the issue we are not going to stop deaths,” he said. “We need to look at the barriers that people keep coming up against when they need help.”

Public Health Minister Aileen Campbell insisted the Scottish Government was doing everything possible to “prevent others from experiencing this heartbreak” and announced a “refresh” of its drug policy. “Despite the problems we are seeing among older drugs users, we must not lose sight of the progress that is being made more widely. Drug-taking in the general adult population is falling,” she said.