Signs of decline in teenage drug and alcohol problems
Thursday, 24 December 2009
The number of teenagers seeking specialist help with alcohol and drug problems rose slightly last year but the trend seems to indicate demand is levelling off according to a new report.
The National Treatment Agency for Substance Misuse (NTA), says more teenagers in England who need it are receiving help for problems involving drug and alcohol use, but fewer have problems severe enough to require treatment for addiction.
It also says that evidence "continues to suggest that overall drug and alcohol use among the general population of young people is declining". It says the increasing availability of specialist substance misuse services ensures that many more of the minority who do need help are getting it.
The number of teenagers entering treatment for heroin and crack has fallen by a third in four years according to the NTA report "Substance misuse among young people – The data for 2008/09"; this echoes the trend already seen in young adults (aged 18-24) in drug treatment.
The overall number of under-18s accessing specialist substance misuse services in England during 2008/9 was 24,053. This is a modest increase of about 150 over 2007/8, and the NTA says indicates that demand for such services is levelling out. The vast majority of these young people are receiving help for problems associated with the misuse of cannabis and/or alcohol, which are treated with structured counselling.
Drug treatment services in England are now widely available and anyone who needs help can get it quickly.
Reported trends show:
* The number of under-18s needing help for problem drug use associated with heroin and crack has dropped from 1,081 in 2005/06 to 657 in 2008/09.
* The number being helped for cocaine use had increased by more than half last year to 806, compared to 453 in 2005/06, and this year fell to 745. The primary use of these drugs represents six per cent of the total number of young people receiving help in 2008/09.
* Cannabis accounted for 12,642 individuals and alcohol 8,799, accounting for almost nine out of 10 of all young people receiving support in the year.
* Addiction is rare among young people, and an NTA analysis of trends in interventions offered to under-18s over the last four years shows a steady decline in the reported incidence of problems with hard drugs more commonly associated with addiction in adults.
Rosanna O’Connor, NTA director of delivery, said: “The pattern of decline echoes a similar generational shift away from heroin and crack use among young adults in treatment, which is a further indication that the heroin epidemic may have peaked. It would also suggest that young people are getting help for substance misuse before their problems become entrenched.
“Most young people receiving substance misuse interventions cannot be described as addicts in the same way as adults in treatment. Addiction is normally the result of regular, consistent use of substances over time; most under-18s who have problems have not pursued drug taking long enough to result in dependency.”
Nearly three quarters of all young people receiving help in 2008/09 received psychosocial interventions such as counselling, to address the underlying causes and behavioural consequences of substance misuse. Over a fifth received a mix of psychosocial, family work and harm reduction interventions.
The NTA report updates the broad picture of drug and alcohol misuse in under-18s in England established by the publication of the first comprehensive report on the issue in January 2009 ‘Getting to grips with substance misuse among young people.’