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Record rise in 'baby boomer' heroin addicts will test NHS

Daily Telegraph, London,  24/07/2006

The NHS is ill-prepared to cope with the consequences of a record number of "baby boomer" heroin addicts seeking treatment, a drugs charity claimed yesterday.

The warning came as figures showed a record 13 per cent increase in users aged 45 and over referred for treatment last year.

From the 1986 "Just Say No" campaign to its recent "Ask Frank" strategy, the Government's focus has been to deter young, first-time users. Research suggested last month a rise in use of Class A drugs in England, with the number of people taking heroin and crack cocaine rising by 90,000 in two years to 340,000. But statistics released by the National Treatment Agency for Substance Misuse yesterday showed that between April 2004 and March this year, the number of over-45s seeking treatment for heroin jumped from 11,475 to 13,015.

David Raynes, the director of the National Drug Prevention Alliance, said: "Most addicts manage to stop using heroin by their 40s . a 13 per cent increase in just one year is astonishing. It shows the Government's attempts to control drug use are not working."

Martin Barnes, of the charity Drugscope, said the NHS ignored the health implications of recovering addicts at its peril.

A Department of Health spokesman said: "Record amounts of funding for drug treatment have already resulted in record numbers of people entering and staying in treatment. But there is still room for
improvement."