Record number of young people treated for drugs

A record number of young people were treated for drug or alcohol problems in England last year.

52,294 young people aged 13-24 went to counsellors in 2007/08, a rise of 12 per cent in two years.

The figures, obtained from the National Treatment Agency (NTA) by the BBC, also reveal changes in drug habits.

Numbers addicted to ‘hard’ drugs such as heroin have fallen, but under-25s are now more likely to have a problem with a cocktail of ‘party’ drugs including cocaine, cannabis and ecstasy, often mixed with alcohol.

Numbers treated with an ACCE (alcohol plus cocaine, cannabis and ecstasy) problem increased from 21,744 in 2005/06 to 31,401 in 2007/08, a rise of 44 per cent.

Howard Parker, the Manchester University Professor who coined the term ACCE, said: “Alcohol is cheaper and more available, cannabis is far stronger, cocaine is half the price it used to be and you can get half a dozen ecstasy tablets for £10.

“Put those three together and you’ve got just as serious a problem for health, family life and society as heroin.”

Prof Parker’s own research in the North West of England shows that while the average age of heroin addicts in treatment is 36, the average age of someone with an ACCE problem is just 22.

According to drug use patterns of addicts he has studied, the number of units of alcohol for those who are drinking has doubled and the rate of cocaine use has increased for eight or nine years.

He also said that while overall cannabis use had declined, addicts were smoking the more potent skunk variety which has been linked to psychological problems.

The NTA claimed that the record figures reflect more widely available drug services, rather than more young people abusing drugs.

Spokesman Tom Aldridge said: “We had an enormous increase in the number of young people coming on to treatment.

“That’s more to do with drug services being more available and increased investment.

“But what is clear is that there is more of a focus on cannabis, alcohol and cocaine powder use, and it’s a very small minority that are using crack cocaine and opiates.”

Related Resources