THE number of people using crack cocaine and heroin has risen by more than a third over the past two years, according to a Home Office report, writes Daniel Foggo.
The study shows that more than 90,000 extra people are taking the drugs in England, which now has 340,000 crack and heroin users.
The report, by scientists at the Centre for Drug Misuse Research in Glasgow, which has yet to be published, has stunned drug-care professionals.
It has also provoked debate about whether the new figures reflect a recent steep rise in drug use, or whether they point to a high level of usage that had previously gone undetected.
Either way, the report indicates that the country has a much greater drug-abuse problem than was formerly considered to be the case.
The government claims that levels of hard-drug usage have been relatively stable over the long term, although figures released in February showed that drug-related deaths rose for the first time in six years. The number of injecting drug users with HIV has hit a 14-year high.
Martin Barnes, chief executive of Drugscope, the independent drug policy think tank, said the report was of ?extreme concern?. He added: ?We have seen record amounts of money going into drug treatments recently and would have expected that to have had some impact.?
A Home Office spokesman said: ?There is no evidence to suggest the number of problematic drug users is increasing. ?