Today, the National Treatment Agency for Substance Misuse (NTA) has released the latest annual statistics on the numbers of young people accessing treatment for drug and alcohol problems.Key findings from the publication, Substance Misuse among Young People: the data for 2010-11 include:
- the number of young people aged under 18 accessing specialist substance misuse services has fallen for the second year running (to 21,955 from a peak of 24,053 in 2008-9); nine out of ten young people primarily receive support for problems with cannabis or alcohol;
- the number seeking help for amphetamines increased significantly, from 256 to 639; amphetamines include the Class B drug mephedrone;
- statistics again showed that very few young people are treated for Class A drugs like heroin, cocaine or ecstasy: 770, compared to 1,859 five years ago.
Many of these figures are encouraging, particularly those around the reductions in the number of under-18s needing support for Class A drug use.The statistics demonstrate that providing easily accessible, good quality drug and alcohol treatment for young people has benefits – and indeed, a piece of research published in February this year by the Department for Education concluded that young people’s drug treatment is a cost effective intervention, estimating that for every £1 spent on young person’s treatment, between £5 and £8 is saved by the NHS and other agencies.
Yet DrugScope, the national membership organisation for the drug sector, remains concerned over mounting evidence of the scaling back of young people’s drug and alcohol treatment services and the reduction or end of drug education and prevention work in some schools.In the July/August edition of DrugScope’s Druglink magazine, an investigation found that a number of young people’s treatment services had already closed or been severely scaled back in London.Speaking in July, staff at The Lifeline Project and Addaction, treatment providers who support young people, said that cuts to their specialist services would mean the number of young people they can support would be reduced in future.Addaction, confirmed that some local authorities had imposed funding cuts on their young people’s services of up to 50 per cent.Addaction Chief Executive Simon Antrobus voiced concern over the impact this might have on the young people in their care, saying that “without timely intervention, severe drug and alcohol problems escalate.”
Drug education and prevention has also been hard hit with financial pressures on local authorities intensifying after the loss of the Healthy Schools funding from central government.The Druglink investigation found that Hertfordshire, Coventry, Swindon and Richmond councils are among those that have lost staff working indrug education due to budget constraints and in a survey of staff in 79 local education authorities (LEAs) carried out by the National Health Education Group, 27.8% reported that there had been no specialist drug education support in their LEA’s secondary schools since April 2011.The Drug Education Forum, a body of experts in the field that received government funding from 1995 to 2011, has folded after the Department for Education ended its funding last month.
Martin Barnes, Chief Executive of DrugScope, the national membership organisation for the drug sector, said:
“The reduction in the number of young people presenting to treatment services, particularly for Class A drugs, is encouraging, but it is crucial that investment continues and that services are able to respond to changing patterns of drug use.Mephedrone is now as prevalent as ecstasy among 16 to 24 year olds; it’s estimated that 1.4 per cent of this age group used it last year.
“The latest figures – for the year ending March 2011 - do not convey the whole picture for what is happening now.Although government funding for young people’s treatment has been maintained in cash terms, there is evidence of significant cuts in local funding for young people’s treatment, prevention and education services in some areas. Despite evidence of the cost effectiveness of young people’s treatment and prevention, these services are being disproportionately affected by overall spending cuts.
“The risk is that fewer young people are referred to, or can access treatment services early enough to prevent problems increasing later on. DrugScope members report significant cuts in funding and support for school and youth service-based drug education work, despite the importance given in the drug strategy to prevention and tackling demand for drugs and alcohol.
“Many young people needing help with drug or alcohol misuse have other social or emotional problems, such as unemployment, offending or problems at home or school.Early intervention, as highlighted by the landmark report by Graham Allen, is vital, particularly at a time of rising youth unemployment and with cuts in other family support and youth services.”
For more information or to arrange interviews please contact Ruth Goldsmith, Communications Manager, on 07736 895 563 (firstname.lastname@example.org).