Crack Cocaine Report
Crack is transforming drug use in Europe & The UK
This poses growing health and social care challenges, which undermine family and community life. Since 2001, crack use has been more widespread than heroin use. The most recent statistics (British Crime Survey, 2003/04) suggest that there are up to 79,000 crack users compared to an estimated 64,000 heroin users. More worryingly, here are twice as many crack users as heroin users amongst vulnerable young groups (Home Office, 2005). Although this is not the epidemic that was predicted in the early 1990s, the use of crack is now steadily increasing in some parts of Europe. Crack use is challenging established heroin cultures and more people are misusing crack alongside heroin or combining it with alcohol.
Despite these shifting patterns of drug addiction use, treatment provision is still largely targeted at heroin users. There are 84,000 primary heroin users in UK Rehab’s: twelve times the number of primary crack users in treatment (7,200). There are also a significant number of people in treatment (16,300) using both crack and heroin, with particular support needs that place additional strains on health services and the criminal justice system (NTA, 2005).
The relatively small number of crack users in treatment almost certainly reflects the limited availability and accessibility of crack treatment services rather than the scale of problematic drug addiction use. Current treatment services effectively marginalize tens of thousands of crack users, with serious consequences. The Government has made some effort to understand the issue, but without urgent action we face an escalation of the crack problem and a continued growth in the number of crack users in future generations.
The reality of crack misuse is seen in its damaging impact on users’ physical and mental health, relationships with families, and housing and employment. It can have a devastating effect on individuals and their communities and is often associated with other criminal problems and drug-related violence. Crack misuse drastically undermines neighbourhood renewal and regeneration initiatives, affecting areas of social exclusion most acutely. Turning Point’s experience tells us that crack misuse can be successfully treated; but that treatment needs to be more widely available across the country both within the community and the criminal justice system.
We need more government investment in crack-specific services. More fundamentally, all drug services need to respond adequately to the needs of crack users. Unless their needs are met, progress towards improving health and reducing drug-related harm will be seriously restricted.
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