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Crack and Heroin Use Hits Record Low in UK

A report credits the nation's comprehensive treatment system for rapidly declining drug use.

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By Valerie Tejeda

03/07/13

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The number of recorded crack cocaine and heroin users has fallen below 300,000 for the first time in England, according to a report from the National Treatment Agency for Substance Misuse (NTA). The number of people injecting drugs has also dropped from 129,977 in 2005/6 to 93,401 in 2010/11. The report states that the nation's comprehensive treatment systems are responsible for the decrease and stresses that strong leadership will be needed to maintain the downward trend. "One of the main threats is complacency—assuming that drug users will continue to have rapid access to evidence-based treatment, come what may," says the report, "In this case, we need to remember the situation before 2001 and be determined that we don't allow it to slip backwards." Paul Hayes, chief executive of the NTA, says that the use of dangerous drugs by those under 35 "isn't just falling, it's plummeting,” but that the proportion of those over 35 being treated for drug use is on the rise, and this presents a different set of challenges. "The drug population is aging. We have very few people in their teens and twenties using heroin and crack, and more in treatment in their 40's and 50's who are frailer, more ill, and more difficult to turn around in the system," he says. The decline in drug use has prevented an estimated 4.9 million crimes a year, including robbery, shoplifting, and burglary. Hayes says local authorities are well-placed to bring together the different support networks needed by drug users, but adds: "The strong recovery ambition called for in the government's 2010 drug strategy, and the investment in treatment, must be maintained if we are to consolidate and build on the gains we have made."

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