Britain winning fight against heroin and crack cocaine - but use of synthetic drugs such as mephedrone soars

Fewer than 300,000 people of any age now use the drugs in England

Health Editor

Britain is winning the war against heroin and crack cocaine with a 10 per cent fall in users over five years, the head of a leading drugs organisation said today.

Paul Hayes, chief executive of the National Treatment Agency  for Substance Misuse, said among under 35’s the numbers were “not falling, but plummeting” thanks to a “world class drug treatment system”.

But critics warned that while use of traditional drugs like heroin and cocaine was falling, use of synthetic drugs such as mephedrone was soaring – and more difficult to control.

 Mr Hayes, speaking at the final press conference for the NTA before it is wound up and merged into Public Health England from 1 April, criticised Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg who said in December that Britain  was “losing the war against drugs on an industrial scale.”

“If this is failure, I don’t know what success looks like,” Mr Hayes said.

The number of registered addicts was down below 300,000, the number injecting drugs was below 100,000 and treatment programmes had cut offending rates, preventing almost 5 million crimes.

Mr Hayes warned local authorities they must  maintain funding for drug treatment after April 1 against competing priorities. “The public get it – they realise drug addiction is a major driver of crime and that treatment is not just benefiting the individual users, whom they may not like, but is also benefiting them.”

Martin Barnes, chief executive of Drugscope, said the decline was “encouraging evidence that the heroin epidemic of the 1980s was being reversed.”

“However, there can be absolutely no room for complacency. While overall drug use has fallen, new drugs and patterns of drug use are emerging, including new psychoactive substances and greater harms associated with so-called ‘club drugs’ such as ketamine, GBL and mephedrone.”

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

Fifa corruption: The 161-page dossier that exposes the organisation's dark heart

The 161-page dossier that exposes Fifa's dark heart

How did a group of corrupt officials turn football’s governing body into what was, in essence, a criminal enterprise? Chris Green and David Connett reveal all
Mediterranean migrant crisis: 'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves,' says Tripoli PM

Exclusive interview with Tripoli PM Khalifa al-Ghweil

'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves'
Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles: How the author foretold the Californian water crisis

Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles

How the author foretold the Californian water crisis
Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison as authorities crackdown on dissent in the arts

Art attack

Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison
Marc Jacobs is putting Cher in the limelight as the face of his latest campaign

Cher is the new face of Marc Jacobs

Alexander Fury explains why designers are turning to august stars to front their lines
Parents of six-year-old who beat leukaemia plan to climb Ben Nevis for cancer charity

'I'm climbing Ben Nevis for my daughter'

Karen Attwood's young daughter Yasmin beat cancer. Now her family is about to take on a new challenge - scaling Ben Nevis to help other children
10 best wedding gift ideas

It's that time of year again... 10 best wedding gift ideas

Forget that fancy toaster, we've gone off-list to find memorable gifts that will last a lifetime
Paul Scholes column: With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards

Paul Scholes column

With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards
Heysel disaster 30th anniversary: Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget fateful day in Belgium

Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget Heysel

Thirty years ago, 39 fans waiting to watch a European Cup final died as a result of a fatal cocktail of circumstances. Ian Herbert looks at how a club dealt with this tragedy
Amir Khan vs Chris Algieri: Khan’s audition for Floyd Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation, says Frank Warren

Khan’s audition for Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation

The Bolton fighter could be damned if he dazzles and damned if he doesn’t against Algieri, the man last seen being decked six times by Pacquiao, says Frank Warren
Blundering Tony Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

Blundering Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

For Arabs – and for Britons who lost their loved ones in his shambolic war in Iraq – his appointment was an insult, says Robert Fisk
Fifa corruption arrests: All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue

Fifa corruption arrests

All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue, says Ian Herbert
Isis in Syria: The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of President Assad and militant fighters

The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of Assad and Isis

In Syrian Kurdish cantons along the Turkish border, the progressive aims of the 2011 uprising are being enacted despite the war. Patrick Cockburn returns to Amuda
How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields: Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape the US

How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields

Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape to the US
Stephen Mangan interview: From posh buffoon to pregnant dad, the actor has quite a range

How Stephen Mangan got his range

Posh buffoon, hapless writer, pregnant dad - Mangan is certainly a versatile actor