Rise in number of hard drug users in Northumberland

The number of users of hard drugs in Northumberland jumped by almost a third following a previous dip, new figures show.

By Ben O'Connell
Friday, 26th April 2019, 4:53 pm
Updated Friday, 26th April 2019, 5:10 pm
The figures were released by Public Health England.
The figures were released by Public Health England.

Public Health England last month released a report on the estimated number of crack cocaine and opiate users aged 15 to 64 across each region of England.

The figures, which are based on users identified in each area for the 2016-17 financial year, don’t include anyone using cocaine in powder form, amphetamines, ecstasy or cannabis.

The data shows that there were 1,655 estimated users of crack and/or opiates in Northumberland that year, up from 1,256 in 2014-15 (the previous recorded figure).

Prior to that, the numbers had been on the increase – 1,302 in 2010-11; 1,324 in 2011-12; 1,392 in 2012-13; and 1,496 in 2013-14 – before the drop to 2014-15.

In Northumberland, there were 1,286 opiates users and 514 crack users (with some using both).

Analysis by UKAT (UK Addiction Treatment) reveals that almost 19,000 people are estimated to be users in the North East (including Teesside – 12 local authorities) – a rise of 2,000 people over five years.

Three council areas were estimated to have more than 2,000 users in 2016-17 – County Durham (2,838), Middlesbrough (2,315) and Newcastle (2,174). These were followed by Gateshead (1,850), Stockton-on-Tees (1,725) then Northumberland.

However, the county’s rate of use per 1,000 of the population (8.52) is the third lowest in the region.

Liz Morgan, director of public health at Northumberland County Council, said: “We are committed to helping people in Northumberland who are experiencing difficulties with drugs and alcohol.

“There is support available from a range of services to help people stay safe, stabilise and move forward onto recovery, including GPs, community pharmacies and specialist services.

“Escape Family Support provides help to families and friends affected by substance misuse, while the Northumberland Recovery Partnership (NRP) offers a dedicated specialist substance misuse service for anyone in Northumberland, 18 years old or over, who is experiencing problems with drugs and alcohol.”

Escape can be contacted on 07702 833944, while Northumberland Recovery Partnership is at 01670 396303.

The figures also show that the number of 15 to 24-year-olds using opiates and/or crack cocaine in the North East is almost 1,500, which is of particular concern to the medical team at UKAT.

CEO Eytan Alexander, himself a former addict, said: “They’re seeking the feeling of euphoria at pocket-money prices – crack rocks can be purchased for as little as a fiver with dealers available any time of day at the click of a button.

“Teenagers misusing crack and opiates at such an early age will not only suffer with the physical effects of the drugs, but the drugs could impact their education, overall achievement in life and expose them to a criminal environment at a young age, without full understanding of the risks and consequences of their actions.”

Ben O'Connell, Local Democracy Reporting Service