England is leading the way on reducing the harm caused by injecting drug use, according to a report from the National Treatment Agency for Substance Misuse (NTA).
Continued investment by successive governments in drug treatment over the past 30 years means England now has one of the lowest rates of HIV amongst injecting drug users in Western Europe and comparable developing countries.
New NTA figures show the number of people coming into treatment who use syringes and needles to inject illegal drugs (mainly heroin) has dropped to its lowest level since 2005.
In the five years to 2010, the proportion of addicts who were injecting at the time they entered treatment fell by almost 10%. Over the same period the proportion coming into treatment who had never injected rose by 5%.
Younger adults in particular are turning away from injecting, with the biggest drop in injecting found among 18-24 year olds coming into treatment.
The NTA report attributes this shift to the easy availability of a balanced range of drug treatment services. Public health initiatives like needle exchanges and testing for blood-borne viruses reduce injecting and act as a gateway for structured treatment. On top of that, half of all users stop injecting within six months of entering a treatment programme.
Paul Hayes, Chief Executive of the NTA said: "Injecting puts drugs users and their communities at risk. Research tells us that drug users are turning their backs on heroin and crack cocaine, a trend confirmed by our own treatment statistics. Now we know that of those coming in to treatment, fewer are injecting and half can expect to stop within a few months. This is all great news for public health in England."
- More than 40,000 users entering treatment in 2009-10 said they had never injected, the highest level for five years
- About one-third fewer injecting drug users are sharing needles, syringes and other equipment than ten years ago.
- Injecting drug users in treatment are most likely to be male, in their early thirties and either homeless or with housing problems.
- Record numbers of injecting drug users are now getting tested for blood-borne viruses like HIV and hepatitis C through treatment services
- In the last five years the number of former injectors leaving treatment free from all drugs has more than tripled
- Current rates of HIV among English injecting drug users is 1.5% compared to 40% in Spain, 16% in the USA and Portugal and 12% in France.
The report, Injecting Drug Use in England: a declining trend can be found here
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.
For further information please contact Lynne Nasti, Senior Communications Officer (Media), on 020 7972 1920 (business hours) or 07747 535961 (out of hours) or visit our website at www.nta.nhs.uk.