The number of young people in the east who have taken illegal drugs is on the rise, according to new research.

The research, done by youth charity The Mix, shows that in the East of England 34% of 16-25 year-olds have admitted to using an illegal drug in the past year. This is 10% higher than the previous year's figure.

It also found that 58% had admitted to consuming alcohol.

These figures make the East the sixth highest region in the UK with drug use, being just below London. The East ranked higher than Scotland, the South East, the South West and the West Midlands.

In terms of alcohol usage, the East ranks third lowest with 58%, with just Wales and London ranking lower, and Scotland ranking the same.

Sudbury Mercury: Lester Morse, director of East Coast Recovery and Rehab UKLester Morse, director of East Coast Recovery and Rehab UK (Image: East Coast Recovery/Rehab UK)

Addiction expert Lester Morse, said: We have definitely seen a rise in people calling us.

"A lot of people have been calling us, trying to find help for their children not knowing what they should do.

"Drug addiction is almost contagious. The more people who do it, the more people get introduced to it, whereas with alcohol, it is a constant through history, but things like heroin, cocaine, marijuana, they come and go and are popular at the moment."

Mr Morse, who is a director at East Coast Recovery in Lowestoft and Rehabs UK, said: "I'd say the drug use figure is a very conservative figure if I'm honest.

"I think alcohol is becoming a lot less popular with young people, and I think drugs are becoming more popular."

Tim Passmore, police and crime commissioner for Suffolk, said: "I am very concerned to see these stats.

"Illegal drugs and alcohol misuse wreck young lives and this impacts on the life chances of our young people.

"Sadly, in many cases, this is a slippery slope to more serious problems in the future."

Over the last financial year, Mr Passmore has commissioned services worth over £280,000 for prevention work and diversionary activities for young people.

He continued: "In my commissioning role, I am committed to doing everything I can to provide the support necessary to help young people understand the danger of drugs and alcohol and help them make the right choices.

"My advice to anyone tempted by excessive alcohol and illegal drug use is to seek advice, speak to someone you trust and really consider the impact that this short-term choice will have on your long-term prospects."

Nuno Albuquerque, consultant treatment lead for Sanctuary Lodge, a UK addiction treatment group in Halstead, said: "Over the last few years, we have seen a slow but steady rise in the number of under 25's admitting into our rehab for substance misuse treatment.

"But what concerns us is that these are the brave ones who are asking for help, there are others who are yet to identify that they have a problem.

"For some, addiction can develop quickly, especially if they have been experimenting with substances from a young age, and the impact that early misuse has on the person both physically and mentally can be life-changing.

Sudbury Mercury: Nuno Albuquerque, consultant treatment lead for Sanctuary LodgeNuno Albuquerque, consultant treatment lead for Sanctuary Lodge (Image: UK Addiction Treatment Group/Sanctuary Lodge)

"Unfortunately, young people can succumb to peer pressure to abuse substances, or they might use them to cope with feeling lonely, or to cope with stressful situations, like school or problems at home.

"We'd urge parents to have open and honest conversations with their children about drugs and alcohol, and to explain the risks and discuss boundaries."

Clare Jakeman, senior operations manager at Turning Point's Suffolk recovery service, said: "We have seen a steady increase in the number of children and young people accessing the Suffolk young people's service over the past year.

"However, we know many young people struggling with substance misuse are not accessing support.

"We regularly go into schools to talk to young people about substance misuse and raise awareness of the support available and we work closely with professionals working in mental health and youth offending services to support them to identify where a young person's substance use has become problematic."