Thousands of young people with substance issues are ‘falling through the cracks’ thanks to a perfect storm of the pandemic on top of years of cuts, according to the Royal College of Psychiatrists (RCPsych).
Analysis of NDTMS data shows that the number of under-18s in treatment fell by almost 25 per cent between 2019-20 and 2020-21 to just over 11,000 – 55 per cent fewer than in 2008-09.
Most young people are in treatment for problems with cannabis (89 per cent), followed by alcohol (41 per cent), ecstasy (12 per cent) and powder cocaine (9 per cent). Further analysis of data from the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities found that the amount spent on young people’s substance services had fallen in real terms by more than 40 per cent since 2013-14, from almost £74m to just over £43m. Every region in England had made real-terms cuts over the period, including of more than 60 per cent in the West Midlands.
‘Children and their families up and down the country are having their lives blighted by drug and alcohol use due to drastic cuts, workforce shortages, and the impact of the pandemic,’ said vice chair of RCPsych’s addictions faculty, Dr Emily Finch. ‘Addiction is a treatable health condition. Intervening early will mean many kids won’t go on to have an addiction in their adulthood, keeping them out of the criminal justice system and helping them to live full lives. It’s now time for the government to act on their promise and deliver the multi-million-pound investment into drug services.’