Ecstasy in decline but drug use is 'stable'

Class A drug use overall has remained the same but ecstasy use has fallen by a fifth, according to Home Office figures published today.

Figures for 2002/03 show that class A drug use among young people has been "broadly stable" since 1996 with recent falls in some individual drugs, such as ecstasy which has fallen for the first time.

In 2002/03 around 5.4% of young people had used ecstasy in the past 12 months - a reduction of 21% on the previous year.

The new figures are published in the report, 'Prevalence of drug use: key findings from the 2002/03 British Crime Survey' which asks people about their drug use in the previous year.

Home Office Drugs Minister, Caroline Flint, said: "Young people are getting the message that drugs are harmful and some drugs can, and do, kill. It's encouraging to see signs that our work is having an effect. After increases in the late 1990s in drug use, the trend overall is now steady and drug use has remained stable since 2001/02.

"We are not complacent - we are continuing to put across an anti-drug message. In the past 12 months, since we published the government's updated drug strategy, we have been working hard to warn young people against the dangers of drugs. Prevention is better than cure, which is why drugs education is such an important aspect of the strategy."

The updated Drug Strategy, published last December, focuses on action to reduce supply, improve education, and get more people into treatment. The strategy has led to "increased partnership" between government, Drug Action Teams, police and the voluntary sector.

The figures also revealed that in 2002/03, 140,900 people were in treatment - a 41% increase since 1998/99. Over a third of the UK's annual drugs budget - £503 million this year - is spent on treatment.

The Home Office also reported that 9.3 tonnes of cocaine and 9.4 tonnes of heroin had taken out of the supply chain in 2002/03, and 209 serious drug trafficking gangs had been disrupted during the same period.

The British Crime Survey reports respondents' declared drug misuse in the 12 months prior to their interview. The national sample consisted of around 40,000 adults aged 16 or over in England and Wales. Interviews were conducted between April 2002 and March 2003.


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