Crack users seeking treatment rises for fifth year

But ‘cheap option’ treatment provided ‘isn’t working’ warns experts

Public Health England has today revealed that there has been yet another annual rise in the number of UK adults entering treatment for crack cocaine.

The figures show that the number of people entering treatment for crack with opiates has risen from 24,363 in 2018/19 to 25,043 in 2019/20. Those entering treatment for using crack without opiates have also risen from 4,535 to 4,651 in 2019/20. 56% of these people live in areas ranked in the 30% most deprived areas of England.

This, they state, is the fifth year in a row that the number of people entering treatment for crack cocaine have risen. The number is now 36% higher than in 2013 to 2014.

The report – Adult substance misuse treatment statistics 2019 to 2020 – analysed by addiction treatment experts UKAT (www.ukat.co.uk/drugs/v69/), shows that across the board, there were 270,705 adults in contact with drug and alcohol services between April 2019 and March 2020, slightly up from the previous year of 268,251.

The vast majority -69%- of those in contact with drug and alcohol services are male (186,811) compared to 83,894 females.

The number of new adults entering treatment for any type of substance misuse in 2019 to 2020 was 132,124. Over half (59%) of these said they had a mental health treatment need as well, an increase on the previous year from 53%.

Only 19% of adults starting treatment last year said they had a housing problem.This particular statistic, drug and alcohol addiction treatment specialists UKAT say, is important because it helps to “combat the stereotype that most addicts are either homeless or destitute”.

In fact, today’s report actually shows that in 2019/20, 21% of people starting treatment for substance misuse were living with children, either their own or someone else’s. A further 31% were parents but not living with their children. 58% of females starting treatment for substance misuse reported either living with a child or being a parent and worryingly, 81% of the children of people starting treatment were receiving no early help from child support services.

Of those who began treatment last year, a staggering 98% received community-based treatment- treatment that seemingly doesn’t work for over half of those seeking help, as only 47% of cases successfully completed treatment.

Experts at UKAT are most concerned about the number of people receiving treatment in inpatient and residential settings. It has continued to fall drastically from 16,757 in 2018/19 to just 15,161 people in those settings, an 11% annual drop. This is now 41% lower than 2014/15 when over 25,000 people were receiving intense, intervention style treatment.

Nuno Albuquerque, Group Treatment Lead for the UK Addiction Treatment Group (UKAT) comments;

“Today’s report tells a tale of two halves. Firstly, that the number of people seeking treatment for crack cocaine- both with and without opiate misuse alongside- has risen again for the fifth year in a row. The likely reason for this could be that as more and more cocaine is produced across the world, drug dealers have to offer lower prices because the supply outweighs the demand.

“We’ve treated people who have told us that their dealer would let them buy crack cocaine ‘on tick’, and some are even offering ‘buy one get one free’ deals for crack and heroin; an incredibly dangerous and addictive cocktail of drugs known as ‘speedballing’. 

“The second part to today’s report however, is of great concern to us. In just 5 years, 41% fewer addicts are being offered residential or inpatient treatment programmes. If a person has a prolonged problem with both heroin and crack cocaine, for example, then it is more than likely that being treated in the community won’t work for them. They’ll require 24/7 complex support and a fully intensive intervention only achieved in a residential setting. This is just another way of cutting costs when it comes to treating those most vulnerable in society.”

The Public Health England report also reveals that the number of deaths in treatment has continued to rise, increasing from 2,889 people in 2018 to 2019 to 2,929 this year. This trend has increased from 712 deaths in 2005 to 2006 to 2,929 deaths in 2019 to 2020, which is more than a 4 times increase.

24/7 confidential help and support for crack cocaine misuse can be found at www.ukat.co.uk/drugs/crack-cocaine/v67/