INVERCLYDE'S drugs deaths rose to 26 in the last year with the banned 'street valium' to blame for most fatalities.

A new report shows the drugs crisis is continuing apace, with the district recording one of the country's highest rates of deaths.

The total number of deaths projected by year-end is likely to increase by two compared with the previous year - which would take the death toll to more than 200 in the last decade.

The majority of deaths since April 2019 involve banned drug Etizolam - and in all confirmed cases more than one drug has been found in the person's body.

Inverclyde is currently going ahead with a shake-up of drug services to focus on recovery, in a bid to turn the tide.

Councillor Jim Clocherty, who is chair of Inverclyde Integration Joint Board, said: "We recognise that drug abuse is a major problem.

"What we have been doing before just hasn't worked.

"We have people who have had drug addictions now for 25 years and they are in their 50s."

Toxicology reports are still awaited for some of the 26 drug-related deaths.

Latest figures show Scotland is in the grip of a huge crisis with drugs, with the death toll representing the highest rate in Europe.

Inverclyde recorded 24 confirmed cases in the previous year, one more than the figure for the 12 months beforehand.

Etizolam is known as street valium and prescribed in countries like India and Japan to treat anxiety, insomnia and panic attacks but it is not licensed in the UK.

It was previously classified as a 'legal high' but has since been reclassified as a class C drug.

The drug misuse prevalence rate for Scotland is 1.62 per cent.

In Inverclyde the rate is 2.91 per cent.

In the 15 to 24 age group cohort, the Inverclyde rate is the highest in the country for both young men and women.

Inverclyde Health & Social Care Partnership are redesigning alcohol and drug services and they want funding for a recovery hub and to deliver services around the clock.

Councillor Clocherty said: "We need to change our priorities and find a way to help people recover.

"But there is no short term solution."