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Concern over rise in cocaine deaths

The government has been criticised for the surge in number of deaths linked to cocaine overdose in 2008.

According to official statistics, as many as 235 people died in England and Wales last year due to cocaine abuse, a rise of 20%.

Almost a million adults were found to use the drug in England and Wales.

With an 8% rise, around 1,738 overdose deaths from all illegal drugs were recorded in 2008.

Liberal Democrat health spokesman Norman Lamb, who described the figures as "horrifying", said that ministers must urgently re-think their strategy before even more lives are lost.

He said: "The toll of damage from drugs is immense and the cost to the NHS is enormous. The government's punitive policies and heavy-handed rhetoric on drugs are failing.

"Ministers must make sure that schools and public services work together to make sure that the message gets out that drugs kill."

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