Crack hits for a fiver - treatment experts express concern over danger as new addiction figures are released

UKAT has expressed concern about the level of young crack cocaine and opiate users across the North East.
UKAT has expressed concern about the level of young crack cocaine and opiate users across the North East.

The number of crack cocaine and opiate users across Hartlepool stands at more than 1,200, with campaigners warning “pocket money prices” are putting those as young people at risk.

New figures show that across the region, almost 19,000 people are estimated to be using the substances - a 2,000 rise in the last five years - with the region found to have the highest prevalence of users in the 25 to 34 age group across the country.

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.

Eytan Alexander

Across Hartlepool, 1,212 15 to 64-years-old are said to be using both crack and other opiates, but addiction treatment experts at UKAT say it is worrying the figures do not include anyone using cocaine in its powder form, amphetamines, ecstasy or cannabis.

UKAT has said it is particularly concerned that within the region, the number of 15 to 24-year-olds using both crack and opiates stands at almost 1,500.

The figures cover the 12 months from April 1, 2016, with 18,983 users identified across the region.

UKAT’s chief executive office and a former addict Eytan Alexander: “Public Health England’s data clearly shows that an alarming number of teenagers and young adults are addicted to these incredibly potent substances.

“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.”

Cleveland Police’s Temporary Chief Inspector Scott Cowie, Heroin and Crack Cocaine Action Area Coordinator, said: “Drugs cause misery in our communities.

“We are committed to enforcement but we recognise to reduce harm we also need to work with partners to support treatment, rehabilitation and education schemes.

“We continue to work in partnership on these issues and to develop best practice.

“We take robust action to dismantle drug networks and the organised crime associated with the supply and production of drugs.

“This includes removing more than £1.5 million of drugs from the streets in 2018.”

The figures also show that in County Durham, 2,838 people are users of the substances.

Four sources of data were available within which people who use opiate and/or crack cocaine could be identified - drug treatment, probation, police and prison data.

Ron Hogg, Police, Crime and Victims’ Commissioner for County Durham and Darlington, said: “These figures continue to show that the number of users of hard drugs is too high, both locally and across the North East.

“I have said many times that conventional methods of dealing with drug users are not working and too many people are unwell, and in some cases dying, as a consequence.

“We need the Government to adopt a radical new approach to policy, focusing on a health-based approach, which does not stigmatise people and destroys their future opportunities; and locally, we need to take a pragmatic approach for vulnerable people at risk of harm.

“Such people need wraparound, holistic support and gateways to treatment services and I am working with the county council and others to seek new measures to help people to address their addiction.”