The number of people in England who use heroin and crack has fallen, according to independent research published by the National Treatment Agency for Substance Misuse (NTA).

Experts from the Centre for Drug Misuse Research at the University of Glasgow estimated there were 306,150 users of heroin and/ or crack in 2009-10, a statistically significant decrease from the 2008-9 estimate of 321,229.

The research suggests there are now about 25,000 fewer heroin and/ or crack addicts in the population than the 2005-7 estimate of 330,000. An NTA summary of the research also highlights an estimate of 103,185 injecting drug users, a fall of 12% from the previous count.

The findings update a three-year research programme commissioned by the Home Office to supplement data in the British Crime Survey and give a clearer picture of the extent of use of the most harmful drugs.

Heroin and crack are the most problematic illicit substances, because of their potential for entrenching dependency in individuals and their social impact in fuelling drug-related crime, worklessness and welfare dependency.

The trend identified by Glasgow University reflects the reduction in new presentations to services recorded by the National Drug Treatment Monitoring System (NDTMS) in recent years, and is consistent with an ageing drug using population.

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