The number of crack users seeking help to beat their addictions has risen 23% in a year, even as the overall number of people accessing drug treatment services has continued to decline, figures show.
National Drug Treatment Monitoring System figures show 3,657 people asked for help to stop using the smokable form of cocaine in the year to April 2016, compared with 2,980 in the previous year. There was a 12% increase in people seeking to beat an addiction to both crack and opiates – such as heroin – in the same period, to 21,854.
Overall, opiate use remained the most common reason to seek help, with just over half of patients battling addictions to heroin, methadone and similar substances. But the sharp rise in numbers asking for help with crack addiction sparked concerns, after a much smaller rise of 3% the previous year.
Separate data, released on Thursday by the Home Office, showed a 16% rise in seizures of crack in the year to April 2017.
Overall, 279,793 people accessed drug treatment services in England in the year to April 2017, of whom 69% were male and 90% were white.
The overall number of crack users in England has risen 10% between 2010 and 2015, to 182,828, according to an estimate by the Public Health Institute at Liverpool John Moores University in September.
The NDTMS report, published on Thursday, agreed that the increase in the numbers seeking treatment for crack addiction probably reflected a rise in the use of the drug. “This increase in the number of new users may be in part caused by changes in the purity and affordability of crack cocaine over the last few years,” the report said.
In a blogpost accompanying the release, Rosanna O’Connor, a drugs expert at Public Health England, speculated that changes in drug supply networks, including the “county lines” phenomenon, where metropolitan drug gangs are branching out to establish outposts in provincial towns, may also be playing a role.
Ian Hamilton, who researches drug…