There was an 18 per cent increase in the number of people seeking treatment for crack problems in 2017-18, according to the latest PHE figures. This follows a 23 per cent increase the previous year (DDN, December/January, page 5), with the figure now standing at more than 4,300.
The numbers, taken from National Drug Treatment Monitoring System (NDTMS) data, show more people in treatment for crack problems across all age categories, including younger age groups ‘where there had previously been years of decline’. The increase likely reflects the rising prevalence of crack use, says the document, while the rising numbers of new users ‘may be in part caused by changes in the purity and affordability of crack cocaine and patterns of distribution over the last few years.’ The number of people entering treatment for both crack and opiate problems was also up, by 3 per cent to 22,411.
Overall, there were 268,390 adults in contact with drug and alcohol services in 2017-18, 4 per cent down on the previous year. The number of people seeking treatment for problems with NPS was down by 16 per cent to 1,223, while the number of people in treatment for alcohol problems alone fell by 6 per cent to 75,787 – 17 per cent lower than the figure for 2013-14.
PHE was working with the Home Office to ‘get a better understanding of the issues behind the increase in crack use and has engaged with areas seeing the largest increases’, said the agency’s director of alcohol, drugs and tobacco, Rosanna O’Connor. She also stressed that the falling numbers in alcohol treatment were not because fewer people were dependent. ‘We estimate that four out of five alcohol-dependent adults aren’t getting the treatment they need. There is a big gap between people needing treatment and those accessing it.’
PHE has published a separate enquiry into the declining numbers in alcohol treatment, which found that ‘the context in which treatment is currently commissioned and provided – including financial pressures and service reconfiguration – has affected alcohol treatment numbers more than treatment numbers for other substances’. Areas where there had been a fall in numbers ‘more often reported an erosion of effective referral pathways’, it adds. ‘This was partly due to staff and commissioners having less time to maintain working relationships with partners, or referrers losing confidence in the service following a period of upheaval.’
Substance misuse treatment for adults: statistics 2017 to 2018, and PHE inquiry into the fall in numbers of people in alcohol treatment: findings, at www.gov.uk