DrugScope has responded to the publication of two sets of official statistics detailing the prevalence of drug use among adults and young people.
The Home Office’s Drug misuse declared: Findings from the British Crime Survey 2009/10 presents estimates of the prevalence of illegal drug use among 16 to 59 year olds in England and Wales . The NHS Information Centre’s Smoking, drinking and drug use among young people in England in 2009 includes data on levels of illegal drug use among 11 to 15 year olds .
The 2009/10 British Crime Survey found that found that 8.6% of 16 to 59 year olds in England and Wales reported using any illicit drug in the last year, down from 10.1% in 2008/09. The numbers of 16 to 24 year olds reporting having used a drug in the last year also dropped to 20%, down from 22.6% in 2008/09.
Key trends in the use of individual drugs include:
Among 16 to 59 year olds there were falls in the ‘last year’ use of cannabis (from 7.7% in 08/09 down to 6.6%), cocaine powder (from 3% to 2.4%), amphetamine (1.2% down to 1%), tranquilisers (0.7% to 0.4%) and amyl nitrate (1.4% to 1.1%);
Among 16 to 24 year olds there were falls in ‘last year’ use of cannabis (from 18.7% in 08/09 down to 16.1%) and amyl nitrate (4.4% to 3.2%). In this age group there were ‘statistically significant’ increases in use of crack cocaine (from 0.2% in 08/09 to 0.5% in 09/10);
The percentage of 16-24 year olds who report using cannabis in the past year has fallen from 28.2% in 1998 to 16.1% in 2009/10. For 16-59 year olds use in the past year has fallen from 10.3 in 1998 to 6.6%
Responding to the figures on drug use among adults, Martin Barnes, Chief Executive of DrugScope, said:
“It is encouraging that there has been a decline in overall levels of drug use, including some significant reductions in reported use of cocaine powder and cannabis. Although cocaine use remains much higher than in the late 1990s, the worrying increase we saw last year does appear to have been reversed.
“Drug use among 16 to 24 year olds has declined and is at its lowest level since 1996. It is significant that reported cannabis use among young adults has halved since 1998. There are understandable concerns about the use and availability of stronger types of cannabis, but it is possible that a decrease in the availability of less potent forms of the drug could in part be contributing to the decline in cannabis use.
“Caution should be used in reading too much into year by year changes, but among 16-24 year olds there is a concerning increase in reported use of crack cocaine and illicit or non-prescribed methadone. Use of crack cocaine fortunately remains relatively rare, but we should be alert to any evidence of any increase in its availability and popularity. While the increase in reported use of methadone is statistically significant, it remains low and it is difficult to point to any concrete reasons for an increase.
“The survey includes data on use of three former legal highs which were banned in December last year. It is not possible as yet to identify a trend in use of these drugs nor the impact of banning them.”
Also published today, The NHS Information Centre’s Smoking Drinking and Drug use among young people in England 2008, includes estimates of illegal drug use among 11 to 15 year olds. The findings, which are not directly comparable with the figures on adult drug use due to the differences in methodologies between the two surveys, show that 22% of school pupils reported having ever used drugs, a decrease from 29% in 2001. Meanwhile 15% of pupils reported having taken drugs in the past year (21% in 2003) and 8% reported having taken drugs in the last month (12% in 2008).
Among 15 year olds 40% have ever taken drugs (49% in 2003) – 32% excluding volatile substances; 30% have taken drugs in the past year (38% in 2003) and 17% in the past month (23% in 2003). The survey also found that 22.8% of 15 year olds have used cannabis in the past year.
In response to the release of data relating to drug use among 11 to 15 year olds, Martin Barnes, Chief Executive of DrugScope, said today:
“The school survey shows an encouraging downward trend in overall levels of drug taking, smoking and drinking by schoolchildren countering some of the more alarmist claims, but the figures do have limitations. Headline statistics can’t show the harms that drug use causes to many children – it is a concern for example that a quarter of 15 year olds have used cannabis and one in four of those have used it more than 10 times in the past year. While general levels of drug use among young people may be declining and most won’t use drugs, there is a significant minority who run into problems with their drug and alcohol use and are in need of support. It is important to emphasise that there is still a significant job to do in tackling drug and alcohol use and harms, there can be absolutely no room for complacency.”
For more information or interviews contact Andrew McNicoll at the DrugScope press office at firstname.lastname@example.org or on 020 7520 7563 (07736 895563 out of hours).