Hospitals across the Midlands are dealing with a soaring number of people making themselves ill through drugs or drink.
The scale of the problem was exposed in new Department of Health figures which showed the number of patients admitted to hospital had risen dramatically over five years, in one area by as much as 73 per cent.
Last year 2,965 people were admitted to hospital in Birmingham and the Black Country with alcohol-related illnesses – up almost 50 per cent compared to 2001/02 when such admissions were 2,002.
The number treated for drug-related conditions in 2005/06 reached 6,504, up 39 per cent compared with five years ago. But these Government figures show the problem is growing more quickly elsewhere in the region.
In Coventry, Warwickshire, Herefordshire and Worcestershire the number of alcohol-related admissions rose from 882 to 1,533 – an increase of 73 per cent during the same period. The number of drug-related conditions also went up by more than half (52 per cent).
Staffordshire and Shropshire saw the number of drink-related conditions rise by 63 per cent from 938 in 2001/02 to 1,351 last year, but drug-linked admissions rose by less than ten per cent from 2,539 to 2,780.
Across the Midlands, the number of people admitted to hospital for alcohol-related illnesses rose by an average of 57 per cent, compared to 35 per cent nationally, while the level of drugs cases increased by 35 per cent against 30 per cent nationally.
The figures were published by Public Health Minister Caroline Flint as scientists warned that alcohol could be almost as dangerous as heroin.
An article published in The Lancet medical journal showed heroin was the most harmful drug, followed by cocaine.
But alcohol was ranked as the fifth most dangerous drug, ahead of cannabis and ecstasy.
The list was drawn up by a team of scientists led by Professor David Nutt, from the University of Bristol, and Professor Colin Blakemore, chief executive of the Medical Research Council. In August Alcohol Concern launched a national campaign in GPs surgeries to enable binge drinkers to get "on-the-spot" advice and support to help reduce their drinking. The Government provided health authorities with #54 million last month to help them improve services for people with drug and alcohol problems, including residential facilities for patients trying to beat addictions.
Ms Flint said: "The Government is committed to increasing the availability of in-patient treatment and residential rehabilitation for substance misusers.
"This money will provide additional beds and improvements to service quality for some substance misusers with some of the highest levels of need. Better services will bring about better outcomes."
She added: "This funding will help to provide a life away from drugs for the user and a new future for families, friends and communities."
Spending money on rehabilitation ultimately saved the taxpayer money because of reduced healthcare costs and crime, she said.
Around half of people arrested and held in custody by police in Birmingham test positive for class A drugs including heroin or crack cocaine.