DrugScope welcomed NTA figures on substance misuse

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DrugScope, the national membership organisation for the drug sector, has welcomed the publication of new figures from the National Treatment Agency for Substance Misuse (NTA) on the numbers of young people who have received specialist support for drug and alcohol misuse.

Until now, reliable data on the numbers of under 18s in treatment – and the type and outcomes of treatment they received – has been scarce.

Public and media perceptions of the numbers of young people misusing drugs and alcohol can be distorted.Yet the picture painted by prevalence data gathered by the NHS, Ofsted and the Department for Children, Schools and Families (DCSF), and the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addictions (EMCDDA) all suggest that the numbers of young people using drugs and alcohol are falling.

This NTA report, Getting to grips with substance misuse among young people: the data for 2007/08, suggests that greater investment in specialist services for under 18s has increased the accessibility of drug and alcohol treatment for this age group.

Key findings show that 51% of young people in substance misuse treatment were primarily seeking help for cannabis misuse and 36% for alcohol; prevalence data confirms that these are the two most commonly used substances among under 18s.The numbers of young people receiving treatment for a primary problem with heroin (3%), cocaine (2%) or crack cocaine (1%) were comparatively low.

Martin Barnes, Chief Executive of DrugScope, said:

“It is clearly of concern when any young person faces problems with drugs or alcohol.Drug education and prevention work in schools has recently been reviewed by the DCSF and DrugScope welcomes the government’s commitment to improve the quality of education children and young people receive on substance misuse.

While we cannot be complacent, a number of independent data sources do suggest that the use of drugs and alcohol among young people is in decline, particularly the use of cannabis, which has shown an overall downward trend since 2001.

“We know that, unfortunately, a minority of young people will need help to overcome problems with drugs or alcohol, and to get to grips with other problems that may have led them to use substances in the first place.Whenever a young person does need help, it is vital that they are able to access age-appropriate support, in their local area, within as short a time as possible.It is encouraging that majority of young people in need of help accessed services within three weeks of referral.

“While acknowledging the successes yielded by increased investment, I should add that DrugScope members continue to highlight problems faced by young people when they reach 18 and are no longer eligible for specialist services.The transition to adult treatment can be difficult and this should be addressed as young people’s services continue to improve.”

Figures on the types of treatment interventions offered demonstrate that young people’s specialist services aim to meet the specific needs of their client base. Today’s report stresses that there are often complex factors that lead a young person to misuse drugs or alcohol, linked to emotional or psychological problems, difficulties at home or in school or traumatic experiences.Counselling, cognitive behavioural therapy or family interventions can help a young person get to the root of why they are misusing substances, enabling them to address their problems and move on in their lives.

Source: DrugScope, UK

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