Number of people in alcohol treatment up by 10 per cent

The number of people being treated solely for alcohol issues was almost 85,000 in 2021-22, up by 10 per cent from the previous year, according to the latest figures from the Office for Health Improvement and Disparities (OHID).

Dr Richard Piper, CEO of Alcohol Change UK
Dr Richard Piper, CEO of Alcohol Change UK

However, the figure is still less than the peak of more than 91,600 in 2013-14. 

People being treated for alcohol alone made up 29 per cent of all adults in treatment, second only to those in treatment for opiate use at 49 per cent – the number of people in treatment for opiates fell slightly from 140,863 to 140,558.

Overall there were 289,215 adults in contact with drug and alcohol services in 2021-22, up from 275,896 the previous year. The number of adults entering treatment was 133,704, which was relatively unchanged from the previous two years.  

The number of people starting treatment for powder cocaine was up by 11 per cent to 21,298 – slightly below 2019-20’s peak figure of 21,396 – while the number entering treatment for crack was at its lowest level since 2015-16. The number of people using crack with opiates fell from more than 21,000 to less than 19,000, although the number using crack without opiates rose slightly to just over 4,700. 

A sixth of all people entering treatment – and a third of those entering treatment for opiates – reported having a housing problem, while 70 per cent of all adults starting treatment stated that they had a mental health treatment need. More than half of all people entering treatment were smokers, although just 4 per cent had been offered referrals for smoking cessation. There were 3,742 recorded deaths of people in treatment in 2021-22, although OHID points out that these ‘might not be alcohol or drug-related’. 

Commenting on the increase in people in alcohol treatment, Alcohol Change UK chief executive Dr Richard Piper told the BBC that around 600,000 people currently needed treatment with the vast majority still not accessing it. ‘Evidence shows that, for many people, the COVID-19 pandemic led to an increase in their drinking with those already drinking heavily most likely to have been drinking more,’ he added.

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