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Record numbers recovering from drug addiction

Record numbers of drug addicts in England are recovering from addiction, according to the latest figures released today by the National Treatment Agency (NTA). Nearly 30,000 (29,855) successfully completed their treatment in 2011-12, up from 27,969 the previous year and almost three times the level they were seven years ago (11,208). The data also reveals that nearly one third of users in the last seven years successfully completed their treatment and did not return, which compares favourably to international recovery rates.

The number of young adults needing treatment for heroin or crack has plummeted to the lowest recorded level, and the existing heroin using population is ageing, making the over-40s the only group to increase their numbers in treatment. The number of new heroin addicts has sharply reduced:  9,249 started treatment for heroin addiction in 2011-12 for the first time, compared to 47,709 in 2005-06.

The latest drug trends data has been published today by the NTA and analysed in a report 'Drug treatment 2012: progress made, challenges ahead' reflecting long-term drug use and addiction trends amongst adults in England, as well as presenting the annual figures. The report says that:

  • Of the 366,217 individuals who have received treatment in the last seven years, 29% (104,879) have completed treatment successfully and not returned. The prospects for people starting treatment today are better: between 2008-11, 41% successfully completed and did not return, compared to 27% in 2005-08.
  • The number of young adults (18-24) coming into treatment for heroin has fallen by 23% in the last year alone, from 5,532 to 4,268, a fall of nearly two-thirds since 2005-06 (from 11,309).
  • The over-40s are now the only age group whose treatment numbers are going up: just over 16,187 started a new course of treatment in 2011-12 and over-40s now make up almost a third of the whole treatment population.
  • Heroin remains the biggest problem for those in treatment: out of the total 197,110 adults in treatment, 96,343 were receiving help for heroin dependency and a further 63,199 for heroin and crack, accounting for 81% (159,542) of those in treatment. Cannabis accounts for 8% (15,194) and powder cocaine for 5% (9,640).

Paul Hayes, NTA Chief Executive, said:"The number of heroin and crack addicts is shrinking as fewer are starting to use the most harmful drugs, and more of them are recovering from addiction. The sharp drop in the number of young adults needing treatment is particularly encouraging.

"However there are risks and challenges ahead. Treatment needs to accelerate its recovery focus if more of the ageing heroin population are to successfully complete treatment and get their lives back on track. Services need to remain responsive to emerging substances. And we should be mindful that economic problems have historically exacerbated drug addiction.

"Drug treatment benefits individuals and local communities, and needs to be sustained if the challenges of the future are to be met."


The National Treatment Agency for Substance Misuse (NTA) is a National Health Service (NHS) special health authority which aims to improve the availability, capacity and effectiveness of drug treatment in England.  We help people to overcome addiction and regain their lives.

From April 2013, the NTA's core functions will transfer to Public Health England, and the NTA will cease to exist as a separate organisation.

The NTA report 'Drug treatment 2012: progress made, challenges ahead' is available here or email communications@nta-nhs.org.uk . The ONS statistical report, tables and technical notes are available here. Local and regional breakdowns of the number of people recovering from addiction can be sourced on request. Figures on international treatment were reviewed in Medications in Recovery, published by the NTA in July. 

An infographic depicting drug trends is available here.

For further information contact the NTA press office on 020 7972 1921 or out of hours call 07795 036460 or visit the NTA website www.nta.nhs.uk 

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