Drug taking at its ‘lowest ever level’ in the region

The North East has the highest rate of Class A drug use outside London, a Government survey has found

A Government survey has found drug use in the region is down
A Government survey has found drug use in the region is down

The North East has the highest rate of Class A drug use outside London, a Government survey has found.

Nearly one in 30 people in the region reported taking a Class A drug such as cocaine or ecstasy in the past year.

And one in 13 people reported taking some form of illegal drug such as cannabis.

But the figures also showed that drug use is down, and the reduction was hailed by ministers as “really positive news”.

The Home Office publishes annual figures for drug use based on surveys of people aged 16 to 59 across England and Wales.

In the North East, 3.1% of those surveyed reported taking a Class A drug, which can include heroin, LSD or Methamphetamine, known commonly as crystal meths, as well as ecstasy or cocaine.

This was higher than anywhere else except London. Across England and Wales as a whole the figure is 2.6%

But people in the North East are less likely to use the most popular illegal drug cannabis, which is classified as Class B.

The Home Office found that 4.8% of people in the region used cannabis in the past year, compared with 6.4% across England and Wales.

And 7.6% of people in the North East reported taking some form of illegal drug, lower than the average figure of 8.2%.

The proportion taking drugs is down – from 8.5% of those surveyed in North East in the previous year, and 9.4% in the year before that.

Crime prevention minister Jeremy Browne said: “This report shows drug usage in England and Wales is at its lowest level since records began.

“This, coupled with the record number of people leaving drug treatment programmes free from dependency, is really positive news.”

New questions in the latest survey also revealed the public’s concerns about drug-taking. Almost four out of five of respondents thought taking cannabis was unsafe.

Two-thirds thought it was never acceptable to take cannabis and the vast majority, more than 97%, said it was unsafe to take heroin, cocaine or ecstasy.

Nationwide, an estimated 2.7m people had used an illicit drug in the last year, and around 850,000 people had used a Class A drug.

The survey found 2.8% of adults aged 16 to 59 were defined as “frequent drug users”, which means they took an illegal drug more than once a month on average in the last year.

Frequent drug use among young people aged 16 to 24 was almost twice as high at 5.1% as for adults overall.

Men are also more likely to use drugs than women.

The survey also found that more than 6% of young adults used a nitrous oxide, a legal high known as “hippy crack” in the last year.

The gas is inhaled to make people feel euphoric and relaxed – but drug experts warn it can cause death on first-time use through suffocation.

Questions were added to the survey for the first time on the use of the drug, which is sometimes sold to recreational users in balloons, as well as herbal high salvia, also known as Mexican magic mint.

Some 6.1% of adults aged 16 to 24 had taken nitrous oxide, while 1.1% had taken salvia in the last year.

Last week, a drug-crazed 16-year-old admitted trying to grab a baby from her pushchair in Newbiggin-by-the-Sea, Northumberland, on July 5.

He was given a nine-month referral order to be supervised by the Youth Offending Team.

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