There has been a 23 per cent increase in the number of people seeking treatment for crack cocaine, from 2,980 to 3,657, according to the latest figures from the National Drug Treatment Monitoring System (NDTMS). The number presenting with combined crack and opiate problems was also up by 12 per cent, to 21,854.
People presenting with a dependency on opiates made up the largest proportion of the 279,793 people in contact with drug or alcohol services in 2016-17, at 52 per cent. However this overall total marks a 3 per cent reduction from the previous year’s figure, with the number seeking treatment for opiates down by 2 per cent and the number receiving treatment for alcohol alone down by 5 per cent, to 80,454. The number of alcohol only clients in contact with services is now 12 per cent below its 2013-14 peak.
The median age of people with alcohol-only problems was 46, while opiate clients had a median age of 39. The number of under-25s commencing treatment is now 45 per cent below the level of a decade ago, with just over 11,600 18-24 year olds presenting – mainly for cannabis, alcohol or cocaine.
The number of people presenting with NPS problems was 29 per cent down on the previous year, to 1,450, largely driven by an almost 50 per cent drop in presentations among the under-25s. Individuals who present to treatment using NPS are also ‘more likely to be homeless’, the report states.
The exact reason for the increased prevalence of crack use was not clear but ‘likely to be driven in part by the affordability and purity of crack and cocaine’, said PHE’s director of alcohol, drugs and tobacco, Rosanna O’Connor. Changes in ‘dealing patterns and drug supply networks, such as the “county lines” phenomenon’, are also likely to be playing a role, she added.
Meanwhile, figures from the Home Office show that drug seizures in England and Wales are down by 6 per cent to their lowest level since 2004. While seizures of class B drugs fell by 9 per cent, there were almost 15,000 seizures of cocaine, amounting to more than 5,500 kilograms – the largest quantity since 2003. However, ‘what are portrayed as massive seizures are a minor cost of business for organised crime,’ said Transform’s head of campaigns Martin Powell, and ‘less significant than the 2 per cent food wastage supermarkets like Morrisons factor into their supply chains’.
Adult substance misuse statistics from the National Drug Treatment Monitoring System (NDTMS) 1 April 2016 to 31 March 2017, and
Seizures of drugs in England and Wales, financial year ending 2017, at www.gov.uk