The number of heroin and crack cocaine users needing treatment in England has fallen by 10,000 in two years. The National Treatment Agency for Substance Abuse said the number of adults that began treatment for the class A drugs fell from 62,963 in 2008/09 to 52,933 in 2010/11.
The steepest decline was in the under 30 age group.
The number of people accessing treatment for all drugs also fell for the second year running.
The latest figures also show an increase in the number of drug users “recovering” from addiction – people who no longer need treatment.
Some 27,969 users were classed as recovering in 2010/11, a rise of 18% on the previous year and 150% higher than 11,208 in 2005/06.
The figures showed that, of the 255,556 people who entered a drugs treatment programme since April 2005 for the first time, 28% (71,887) had successfully completed the course and did not need further treatment.
Paul Hayes, the NTA’s chief executive, said the figures showed that “recovery is now becoming a reality for more individuals each year. More drug users are recovering from addiction, fewer need treatment, and more are getting over their addiction quickly.”
Mr Hayes went on to say he thought the figures showed England had “probably passed the high watermark of the impact of epidemic of the late ’80s and early ’90s and that younger groups of people were reluctant to begin patterns of behaviour… that they’ve seen cause damage to their older siblings, people in their community, sometimes, sadly their mums and dads.”
“They realise the consequences of heroin and crack use and they’re turning their backs on that,” he said.
He said officials were also seeing “significant declines in purity” which “suggests that attempts to restrict supply are having an impact”.
“It’s extremely likely, from where we sit, that the different aspects of the government’s drugs strategy are coming together to have a positive effect,” he added.
But he warned that addiction remained a “serious problem” for many communities, particularly the poorest ones.
“We need to remain vigilant, particularly in a tough economic climate. There’s absolutely no inevitability that rising unemployment among young people will see a rise to ’80s levels of heroin use, but we need to watch that situation very carefully,” he said.