Drug addicts are getting older and more over-40s are dying, health officials said yesterday.
But younger adults are becoming more savvy about the dangers of addiction and the number of young heroin addicts has dropped to its lowest recorded level, the National Treatment Agency for Substance Misuse (NTA) said.
Paul Hayes, the NTA's chief executive, rejected suggestions that the Government should legalise or decriminalise drugs.
"Any move towards legalisation would certainly mean an increase in use, particularly in the most problematic drugs," he said.
His warning came as NTA figures showed the over-40s now make up almost a third of the whole treatment population in England .
More over-40s are dying from drug misuse, up to 802 last year from 504 in 2001, figures showed.
"It's a population that began using 20 or 30 years ago," Mr Hayes said.
"There's an increasing challenge from older drug users, who maybe began using in the 1980s, who are now beginning to access treatment as their health deteriorates."