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Friday, 02 November 2018

People being treated for crack cocaine problems up nearly a fifth in year

Written by Jennifer Cockerell

The number of people being treated for crack cocaine problems has increased by 18% since last year and 44% since the year before that, official figures show.

There was also a 3% increase in people entering treatment for both crack cocaine and opiate (mainly heroin) problems, which was seen primarily in those aged 35 and over, statistics released byPeople being treated for crack cocaine problems up nearly a fifth in year Public Health England (PHE) reveal.

This represents more than half (54%) of people entering treatment for opiate problems in 2017/18, compared to 35% in 2005 to 2006.

PHE said it is likely that the recent increase in the number of people entering treatment for crack problems reflects the rise in the prevalence of the drug's use.

This may be caused by changes in the purity and affordability of crack cocaine and patterns of distribution over the last few years.

PHE said the latest published estimates of crack cocaine use in England (2014 to 2015) reported a 10% increase in the numbers of people estimated to be using the substance since 2010/11 (166,640 to 182,828).

The rise in the number of people being treated for crack cocaine problems - 18% since last year (3,657 to 4,301) and 44% since the year before that (2,980 to 4,301) - was seen in all age groups except 65 years and over.

The figures released on Thursday come from the National Drug Treatment Monitoring System (NDTMS) and relate to adults receiving help in England for problems with drugs and alcohol in the period 2017 to 2018.

They show there were a total of 268,390 adults in contact with drug and alcohol services in 2017 /18 - a 4% reduction from the previous year (279,793).

The number of people receiving treatment for alcohol alone decreased the most since last year, falling by 6% (80,454 to 75,787), and by 17% from the peak of 91,651 in 2013/14.

People in treatment for opiate dependence (mainly heroin) made up the largest proportion of the total numbers in treatment (53% or 141,189), also a fall of 4% since the previous year.

The statistics also reveal there were 1,223 people who had problems with new psychoactive substances (NPS) starting treatment in 2017/18, a 16% decrease on the previous year, and a 40% drop on the year before that.

This fall was mainly driven by a 36% reduction in under 25-year-olds entering treatment for NPS problems.

People who are in treatment for NPS problems were more likely to be homeless (25%), compared to those not using these substances at the start of treatment (8%).

There was also a 7% fall in the number of people entering treatment for ecstasy problems in 2017/18 (1,013 to 939), with a much larger decrease of 53% recorded in the number starting treatment for problematic mephedrone use.

Information on whether a person starting treatment has a mental health need has also been introduced into the report for the first time this year, and showed 52,397 people (41% of those who reported their mental health status) said they had a mental health treatment need.

This was most common in the non-opiate and alcohol group (47%) while opiate users had the lowest proportion (39%).

Three-quarters of the people reporting a mental health treatment need (74% or 38,646) also said that they were currently receiving treatment for their mental health.

Labour spokesman Jonathan Ashworth, said: "The fact that the numbers of people receiving help for drug and alcohol addiction has fallen on this scale reveals the desperate crisis in substance misuse services.

"Quite simply years of Tory cuts to the public health grant are now having devastating consequences for some of the most vulnerable in society.

"It's all the more shameful that when almost 590,000 adults with alcohol dependency are in need of specialist treatment, the Tory government are still pushing ahead with cuts to public health services as part of a wider £1 billion worth of health cuts currently pencilled in for next year.

"As someone who has spoken out about my own personal circumstances growing up with an alcoholic father I welcome that Public Health England is now recording the parental status of those starting drug or alcohol treatment.

"This is crucial data and it's vital a fully resourced programme is in put in place to support children affected by parents with drug or substance misuse problems.

"But the truth is thousands in need of desperate help are missing out because of years of swingeing Tory cuts. It means destroyed lives for some of the most vulnerable and their families. These cuts should have been reversed this week."

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