News story

Opiate and crack use continues to fall, alongside significant decrease in injecting

The number of opiate and crack cocaine users in England has fallen again according to independent research published today by PHE.

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Overall, there has been a 10% fall in the number of opiate and crack users since 2004 to 2005 with the largest reductions being seen in the last few years. The figures also reveal a significant fall in the number of people injecting these drugs – from 93,401 in 2010 to 2011, to 87,302 in 2011 to 2012.

These reductions in use are mirrored by a fall in numbers entering treatment for dependency. The total number of adults starting treatment for opiate or crack cocaine fell from 64,288 in 2005 to 2006, to 47,210 in 2011 to 2012, to 45,739 in 2012 to 2013.

This report provides estimates of the prevalence of opiate and/or crack cocaine use at the regional and national level in England for 2011 to 2012. It is a follow up to a series of annual prevalence estimates, including injecting drug use. Accompanying tables are also available which provide estimates at local authority level.

Rosanna O’Connor, Director of Alcohol and Drugs at Public Health England said:

These latest figures show a continuing fall in people using the most dangerous drugs and it is particularly encouraging that injecting amongst opiate and crack users has reduced significantly. Building on these positive findings, the message we are continuing to get is that local public health systems are rising to the challenge of tackling drug use and related health harms, and that they are striving to meet the recovery ambition outlined in the 2010 drug strategy.

However, there is no room for complacency, and alongside this encouraging evidence, we remain vigilant to the major substance misuse challenges – such as reaching an ageing population of entrenched opiate users, and protecting younger people from the harms of newer substances.

Read the reports: Estimates of the Prevalence of Opiate Use and/or Crack Cocaine Use, 2011/12.

Published 21 May 2014