More middle-aged people are dying from drug misuse

 

Drug addicts are getting older and more over-40s are dying, health officials have said.

But younger adults are becoming more savvy about the dangers of addiction and the number of young heroin addicts has dropped to its lowest recorded level, the National Treatment Agency for Substance Misuse (NTA) said.

Paul Hayes, the NTA's chief executive, also rejected suggestions that the Government should do a "hand-brake turn" and start legalising or decriminalising drugs.

"Any move towards legalisation would certainly mean an increase in use, particularly in the most problematic drugs," he said.

"It isn't (Sir) Richard Branson having an extra spliff that's an issue.

"It's people who struggle with life in Liverpool and Manchester and the East End of London who are actually going to bear the consequences."

Sir Richard is among high-profile campaigners who have called for changes to the Government's drugs policy.

His warning came as NTA figures showed the over-40s now make up almost a third of the whole treatment population in England, with more than 16,000 starting a new course of treatment in 2011/12.

More over-40s are also dying from drug misuse, up to 802 last year from 504 in 2001, the figures showed.

Heroin also remains the biggest problem for drug addicts, with four in five of the 197,110 adults in treatment in England being helped for heroin dependency or for heroin and crack.

A total of 96,343 were being treated for heroin dependency while a further 63,199 were being helped for heroin and crack use.

"There's no evidence of swathes of people in their 40s and 50s beginning to use heroin and crack as they get older," Mr Hayes said.

"It's a population that began using 20 or 30 years ago.

"There's an increasing challenge from older drug users, many of whom are still in the system and others who began using in the 80s and 90s are now beginning to access treatment as their health deteriorates.

"These people became addicted to heroin during the epidemics of the 80s and 90s.

"Some are trying treatment for the first time this year, others have tried treatment, relapsed and then come back in, or have entrenched use that presents a significant issue for treatment services, not least because of the sheer numbers in treatment who are aged over 40."

But he added there was a "savvier generation of young people who seem to know what heroin and crack are going to do to you".

Some 4,268 adults aged 18 to 24 started treatment for heroin addiction in 2011/12 for the first time, a fall of nearly two-thirds from 11,309 in 2005/06, the figures showed.

"The original pool of heroin and crack addicts is shrinking," he said.

"And because fewer people are using heroin or crack, it's not being topped up."

But Mr Hayes also warned there were "risks ahead".

"No-one could have predicted in the 1980s that one of the consequences of the recession would have been mass heroin use," he said.

"It came from nowhere.

"Whilst this recession has not produced the same levels of youth unemployment that the 1980s did, youth unemployment, hopelessness among young people, provides fertile territory for the next drugs threat to take hold."

The continuing investment in drugs treatment "cannot be guaranteed in the current financial climate", he added.

With budgets moving to local authorities from April next year, "there is a risk that squeezed local authorities will disinvest, not necessarily from direct treatment provision, but from services that support drug users' long-term recovery.

"That will then impact on the likelihood of people being able to sustain the benefits that they've accrued in treatment."

Clinicians offering treatment also needed to "up their game" to ensure people were not being kept on methadone scripts for longer than they need to be, Mr Hayes added.

"Too much practice in the past has been over-reliant on methadone and hasn't been ambitious enough to make sure that we use it as a platform for recovery, rather than people remaining safe, secure, but not being given every opportunity to actually leave addiction and treatment behind," he said.

Around 140,000 addicts are on some form of prescription treatment, figures showed.

Asked if he agreed with former justice secretary Ken Clarke that the war on drugs was lost, Mr Hayes said fewer people were using drugs, fewer people were dying from drugs, more people had access to treatment, more people were getting better and drug-related crime was down.

"If by winning the war on drugs you mean, 'Are there still some people using drugs and are there still harms flowing from drug use?', clearly - but if that's your criteria for winning the war on drugs, then so be it, we're not winning the war on drugs."

The NTA report showed 29% of the entire treatment population in the last seven years successfully completed their treatment and did not return.

Martin Barnes, chief executive of DrugScope, said the decline in heroin use and dependency among young adults was "perhaps a sign that drug treatment has been turning the tide of the heroin epidemic of the 1980s".

PA

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
Rita Ora will replace Kylie Minogue as a judge on The Voice 2015
tv
Life and Style
tech
Life and Style
Alan Turing, who was convicted of gross indecency in 1952, was granted a royal pardon last year
life
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black and Ed Stoppard as her manager Brian Epstein
tvCilla Episode 2 review: Grit under the glamour in part two of biopic series starring Sheridan Smith
Life and Style
life
Arts and Entertainment
Tennis player Andy Murray's mum Judy has been paired with Anton du Beke for Strictly Come Dancing. 'I'm absolutely delighted,' she said.
tvJudy Murray 'struggling' to let Anton Du Beke take control on Strictly
Life and Style
Vote with your wallet: the app can help shoppers feel more informed about items on sale
lifeNew app reveals political leanings of food companies
Arts and Entertainment
The cover of Dark Side of the Moon
musicCan 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition? See for yourself
Sport
New Zealand fly-half Aaron Cruden pictured in The Zookeeper's Son on a late-night drinking session
rugby
Extras
indybest
Voices
A new app has been launched that enables people to have a cuddle from a stranger
voicesMaybe the new app will make it more normal to reach out to strangers
Arts and Entertainment
Salmond told a Scottish television chat show in 2001that he would also sit in front of a mirror and say things like,
tvCelebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Semi Senior Accountant - Music

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Sauce Recruitment: A successful, Central London bas...

English teachers required in Lowestoft

£21000 - £35000 per annum: Randstad Education Cambridge: Qualified English tea...

Business Development Director - Interior Design

£80000 - £100000 per annum + competitive + bonus + benefits: Sauce Recruitment...

Sales Director, Media Sponsorship

£60000 - £65000 per annum: Sauce Recruitment: A globally successful media and ...

Day In a Page

Secret politics of the weekly shop

The politics of the weekly shop

New app reveals political leanings of food companies
Beam me up, Scottie!

Beam me up, Scottie!

Celebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
Beware Wet Paint: The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition

Beware Wet Paint

The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition
Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Can 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition?
Sanctuary for the suicidal

Sanctuary for the suicidal

One mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits