Drug seizures have fallen for the first time in six years, with the rise in legal highs partly to blame.
Police and border officials made 224,080 drug finds last year, down seven per cent on the previous year's record high.
It was the first time annual seizures had fallen since 2004
Officials said the fall would be due to a number of factors but accepted the recent trend in legal highs may have resulted in gangs smuggling fewer illegal drugs.
Cocaine remained the most commonly found class A drug for the fourth year running, with more than 21,000 separate seizures last year – more than three times the number of seizures made in 2002, but down 13 per cent from 2008/09.
Along with the 2.6 tonnes of cocaine found last year, 758,700 cannabis plants were also seized, up 18 per cent from the 643,296 the previous year.
Other seizures included 1.5 tonnes of heroin and 1.3 tonnes of amphetamines, both down on the previous year, the Home Office figures showed.
A spokeswoman for the Association of Chief Police Officers said: "It is important that these figures are seen in light of the intensive and effective work by forces to tackle production and disrupt supply.
"The reasons behind the fall in overall seizures are largely unmapped. While it is difficult to say definitively, this may be the result of fewer drugs making their way into the supply chain, and a downward trend in illegal drug use.
"The increasing prevalence in the use of newer substances over ‘traditional’ drugs may be a contributing factor, although the extent and impact of these substances is not fully known at this stage.
"There should be no doubt that this is an issue the police service takes extremely seriously. We are aware that more can always be done, and as a service we will continue to work hard with our partners to enforce the law against the trade in illegal drugs of all varieties."
Seizures of anabolic steroids increased by eight per cent to 867, the highest total since it began being recorded in 1996.
The Government's drug advisers warned last month that thousands of boys are taking steroids in a desperate attempt to have the "ideal" male body.
More than 6,000 schoolchildren aged 11 to 15 admit to taking the physique enhancing drugs regularly, according to the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs.
It renewed fears that youngsters are prematurely concerned with their appearance.
A Home Office spokesman said: "While there are some encouraging signs, particularly police seizures and their targeting of cannabis cultivation, these statistics still show more needs to be done to tackle drugs.
"The drugs market is complex and a range of factors including work to disrupt supply routes, changing patterns of drug use and lower purity all impact on these statistics.
"We are keen to ensure the police and UKBA play their part in protecting our communities from the harm drugs cause, which is why the Government is committed to the creation of a new National Crime Agency that will lead the fight against organised crime and deliver on the coalition agreement commitment to enhance the security of our borders."
By Tom Whitehead, Home Affairs Editor
Published: 7:00AM BST 29 Oct 2010
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