Number of drug addicts up 20 per cent

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The Independent Online
The number of registered drug addicts rose by a fifth last year to 34,000 - the biggest increase for five years.

Most are men aged under 30, living in London and other large cities. However, Home Office researchers accept that registered addicts are only a "small proportion" of the real numbers of people hooked on heroin, cocaine, or other drugs.

The Home Office report published yesterday suggests that some of the rise in registered addicts may reflect increased efforts to persuade them to seek medical treatment because of the threat of HIV and Aids. One hundred of the 570 registered addicts who died last year, were injecting drug users who died of Aids. In 1983, there was just one Aids death among registered abusers.

Statistics for last year show that drugs were implicated in just over half of the addicts' deaths. Heroin remains the far most common addiction - although increased efforts to wean users off the drug mean many are now addicted to the heroin substitute methadone. The number of methadone addicts rose 28 per cent to a record level of 15,632.

Most of the new heroin addicts were registered in London - 2,150 - followed by Strathclyde 960, Greater Manchester 950, West Yorkshire 890, Lancashire 580, and Merseyside 560.

There were also indications that addicts are getting younger - the average age is now 26 - and there was also a 20 per cent rise in the number of addicts aged under 21, to about 3,500. Reversing an earlier downward trend, the number of new female addicts rose to just over 3,000.

Perhaps the only encouraging indication in the statistics was that the proportion of addicts injecting drugs fell slightly from 56 percent in 1993 to 54 per cent last year.