DEMAND for emergency drug kits to stop users from overdosing has increased dramatically during lockdown.

As normal services were suspended during the coronavirus outbreak, health and social care staff targeted the most vulnerable people - including those who survived overdoses.

The Tele recently reported a huge rise in the number of suspected drug deaths from April to June, with these figures still to be finalised pending toxicology tests.

Health chiefs admit there is 'significant concern' about the increase and say that a long-planned shake-up of services has also been halted by the pandemic.

In a new report, health and social care director Louise Long said: "The internal workforce redesign of the health and social care partnership's alcohol and drug service has unfortunately been impacted by Covid-19, with the focus being to deliver safe services based on risk and vulnerability to service users.

"The redesign has been paused as no organisational change is taking place during the pandemic.

"Drug-related deaths are a significant concern for Inverclyde with the 2019 figures due to be released by the Scottish Government in December 2020."

In the three months since the start of lockdown 58 Naloxone kits were sent out.

These are injections used to treat an opiate overdose in an emergency situation.

The figure compares with 133 for the entire 12 months beforehand.

During Covid-19 the 1,100 local drug service users were categorised into red, amber and green depending on how much risk they were at.

During lockdown, treatment for 580 people on opiate replacement therapy - such as methadone - continued, with deliveries being made to those who were self-isolating or shielding.

But te number of new referrals to the alcohol and drugs service fell from 90 during April-June 2019 to 60 for the same period this year, as services were scaled back.

Confirmed drug deaths in Inverclyde rose to 24 in 2018, one of the highest rates in the country, with the figures for last year delayed and still two months away from being finalised and released.

Almost all of those who die as a result of drugs live in the poorest places within Inverclyde.

Street valium was a factor in 80 per cent of the 2018 fatalities.

Cocaine was present in 30 per cent of cases, a rise of 18 per cent from three years previously.

Almost half of all those who died in 2018 because of drugs had served time in prison at some point and had been in police custody within six months prior to their death.