New estimates show a significant decrease in use of cocaine and heroin by people under 25 and people under 35 over the last year.
For the first time since drug numbers were recorded, the number of crack cocaine and heroin users has fallen below 300,000. This is according to the Centre for Public Health, Liverpool, John Moores University, Glasgow Prevalence Estimation Limited and The National Drug Evidence Centre.
These numbers show that cocaine and heroin use peaked in 2005/6 at 332,090 and have been steadily decreasing ever since. As the interest in these drugs has decreased so has the number of people seeking treatment.
While this is great news, the fight against drugs is by no means over. The report notes that there is still a large population of aging cocaine and heroin users that pose a major challenge for local treatment centres. While the number of over 35s in treatment has decreased, the number of patients who are over 35 has increased.
These older users may have been addicted for decades. Their addictions are entrenched and they are often suffering far more medical problems due to their long term use. This means they need longer and more intensive treatment to kick their habit.
Some people also worry that these older users are unaware of the recent changes and upgrades to drug treatment systems. This could potentially put people off seeking treatment.
"Since 2001 government has invested in the evidence from the scientific literature that by expanding the treatment system, making it more easily accessible and improving practice, more people would recover, drug use would fall, there would be less drug-related crime and fewer drug-related deaths,” said Paul Hayes, Chief Executive of NTA, the organisation that published the findings.
He added, "The drug treatment system in England has delivered on all these fronts and the investment, which has been continued by the Coalition Government, has paid off. The new public health landscape presents both opportunities and challenges. Local authorities are well placed to bring together all the support people need to help them recover from addiction, including access to housing, employment and social networks. However the strong recovery ambition called for in the Government's 2010 Drug Strategy, and the investment in treatment, must be maintained if we are to consolidate and build on the gains we have made."
Another problem with these new estimates is the changing drug landscape.
While cocaine and heroin use may be falling, other drugs are gaining in popularity. Diazepam, AKA Valium, is on the rise as are so called “legal highs” like mephedrone. These types of drugs have already hit the US hard with painkiller addiction touching every city and state.
As the face of addiction continues to change, experts say it is important to celebrate things like lower heroin and cocaine use but also look at what may be moving to take their place. This will keep drug abuse services helpful and relevant.