The Royal College of Psychiatrists (RCPsych) is calling on the government to invest more than £40m in young people’s addiction services to ‘prevent lifelong addiction’.
The number of young people in treatment has fallen by 40 per cent since 2014-15, it says, with funding cut by 37 per cent since 2013-14.
Eight of the nine English regions have made ‘real terms cuts’, the college’s analysis says, with London losing £4.6m, the West Midlands £7.6m and the North West more than £9m, part of an overall total of £26m cut since 2013-14. Meanwhile the number of young people accessing treatment across the period from April to January has dropped from almost 15,000 in 2014-15 to just under 9,000 in 2020-21, although the college acknowledges this year’s figure could have been worsened by the pandemic.
Most young people accessing services do so for cannabis use, while almost half have a problem with alcohol – in 2018-19 there were more than 40,000 alcohol-related admissions among the under 24s, over a quarter of which were for mental and behavioural disorders due to alcohol use. RCPscyh wants to see £43m of funding for local authorities allocated urgently to ‘bring spending on youth addictions services back to at least the 2013/14 level’ – equivalent to 2.4 per cent of public health spending.
‘These cuts risk condemning a generation of vulnerable young people with drug or alcohol problems to a lifetime of dependence and poor health, or in some cases, an early death,’ said vice-chair of RCPsych’s addictions faculty, Dr Emily Finch. ‘It’s completely unsustainable and unbelievably short-sighted. We need to wake up to the fact that money spent on addictions services saves the NHS a whole lot more in the long run, whether that’s in A&E or in other mental health services. On top of all this, the pandemic has made a dire situation even worse, as even more young people have been left unable to access services.’