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Drug and alcohol misuse

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The Crime Survey for England and Wales 2017-2018, a nationally representative sample of residents in England and Wales, found that around 9% of 16 to 59 year olds (approximately 3 million people) had taken an illicit drug and 3.5% had taken a class A drug in the past year.

The harmful effect of drug and alcohol misuse on individuals, families and communities is significant and something which has serious consequences for the health and wellbeing of the user.

Effective treatment and recovery programmes are essential to help to reduce the harm which drug and alcohol misuse can cause. They help users to overcome their dependency, reduce involvement in crime, sustain their recovery and make a positive contribution to their family and the community.

Supporting parents to overcome their dependence has a positive influence on their parenting role which can help to break a cycle of intergenerational substance misuse. 

Intervening early can reduce risks, build resilience and avoid further dependence.

Drug and alcohol treatment (adults)

In England, there were almost 300,000 people over 18 in drug and alcohol treatment services in 2016-2017.

The largest number (52%) had a dependency on opiates compared to dependency on Alcohol only (29%), Non-opiate and alcohol (10%) and Non-opiate only (9%).

The number of adults presenting with crack cocaine problems increased by 23% to 3,6571.

Drug and alcohol treatment (young people)

Specialist substance misuse services saw 16,436 under 18s in 2016-2017, 4% fewer than the previous year. Two thirds were male and half were 16 and over. This follows a downward trend for young people in England since a peak of just over 24,000 in 2008-2009.

The most common drug with which young people presented to treatment was cannabis. Alcohol is the next most common with just under half of young people in treatment seeking help for alcohol misuse1.

1Copies of National Drug Treatment Monitoring System reports for adults and young people (2016-2017) are provided in the document section.

How to get help and support

The following services offer advice and support around alcohol and drug misuse:

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