BRIGHTON and Hove has recorded the largest number of NHS referrals in England for addiction to methamphetamines, figures have revealed.

Data obtained by the BBC's Politics South East found that 38 people in the city were referred for treatment in 2019/20, up from 26 in 2016/17 and the most recorded anywhere in England.

NHS referrals have jumped by a third from 353 in 2016/17 to 2019/20, with the increase driven largely by gay men - who make up nearly half of those referred.

Charities have claimed that the popularity of drugs like crystal meth on the 'chemsex' scene have led to a spike in drug addiction.

Speaking to BBC Politics South East, Helen Begg, who manages the Brighton and Hove service for national drug treatment charity Change Grow Live, said: "Growing demand for methamphetamine treatment shows no signs of slowing down, as we saw the number of people in treatment double between March 2020 and April 2021.

"Our focus is ensuring vital psychosocial and clinical support is readily available, to address the root causes of high-risk behaviours and enable people using methamphetamine to detox effectively."

Conservative MP and chairman of the Conservative Drug Policy Reform Group Crispin Blunt has suggested that crystal meth should be decriminalised to help address the growing number of people seeking treatment.

He said to the BBC: "We need to look at the example of Portugal in particular who have decriminalised drug use.

"They haven't seen an increase in drug use overall as a consequence, but the authorities on the street - the police ad the medical services are then a safe place for them to go and access treatment."

Boroughs of London including Westminster and Kensington and Chelsea also saw high numbers of people coming forward seeking help.

MP for Brighton Kemptown Lloyd Russell-Moyle told the programme that efforts need to be made in preventing addiction to methamphetamines in the first instance.

He said: "Part of that prevention is about people being confident in their bodies and sexualities and being able to deal with certain elements of trauma because often this drug is used to suppress some of those anxieties so people feel that they can achieve a more pleasurable set of sexual activities.

"Once you are addicted, it makes it very hard to ever go back."

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