Funding will support those with drug and alcohol addictions as drug-induced mental health issues in young people soar.
“This funding will help us build a much improved treatment and recovery service which will continue to save lives, improve the health and wellbeing of people across the country, and reduce pressure on the NHS by diverting people from addiction into recovery.” Steve Barclay, health and social care secretary
Local authorities in England are to receive £421m funding over the next two years to tackle drug and alcohol misuse, with the money being targeted to those areas most in need.
The funding from central government means that total local authority funding for treatment will have increased by 40% between 2020/21 and 2024/25. It will be used to create more than 50,000 high-quality places in drug and alcohol treatment, to improve the quality of treatment and reduce dependency. The government hopes that the funding will help reduce drug use to a 30-year low.
Local authorities are expected to use the funding to recruit more staff to work with people with drug and alcohol problems, support more prison leavers into treatment and recovery services, and invest in enhancing the quality of treatment they provide. More people will benefit from residential rehabilitation or inpatient detoxification, while there will also be improvements to the recovery services to continue supporting them once treatment is over.
The funding is to be awarded to 151 (out of a total 333) local authorities in England. It is split between £154.3 million for 2023/2024, and indicative funding of £266.7 million for 2024/2025.
The government’s drug strategy, published in December 2021, set out the government’s ambition to significantly increase the capacity of treatment and recovery services as part of a whole system approach to tackling supply and demand. It hopes that over the first three years of the strategy, the additional investment in treatment and recovery will prevent nearly 1,000 drug-related deaths and reverse the upward trend in drug deaths for the first time in a decade.
Commenting on the funding, Steve Barclay, the health and social care secretary, said: “Drug misuse has a massive cost to society – more than 3,000 people died as a result of drug misuse in 2021. This investment in treatment and recovery services is crucial to provide people with high-quality support, with services such expanding access to life-saving overdose medicines and outreach to young people at risk of drug misuse already helping to reduce harm and improve recovery.
“This funding will help us build a much improved treatment and recovery service which will continue to save lives, improve the health and wellbeing of people across the country, and reduce pressure on the NHS by diverting people from addiction into recovery.”
One example of the work to be carried out with the help of the funding in 2022/2023 is a plan by Leeds to target unmet need from groups with greatest social and economic deprivation and to increase the size of their workforce by 85 full-time posts this year.
Lambeth plans to recruit additional nurses to ease frontline pressures on the substance misuse service and develop a nurse-led outreach prescribing service for residents in the Vulnerable Adults Pathway.
The announcement of the funding boost coincides with news that a record number of young cannabis smokers have been admitted to hospital with mental health issues.
More than 250 young adults a week are admitted with severe psychological problems triggered by cannabis smoking – an increase of 80% since 2013, when records started. Last year, 3,881 children and teens were hospitalised last year with cannabis-related issues. Nuno Albuquerque, of a private specialist, UK Addiction Treatment Centres, told the Sunday Mirror: “There’s not enough education around the dangers, especially for young people. Using cannabis at a young age is becoming socially normalised yet it can induce mind-altering symptoms.”
The additional funding to tackle drug addiction, which can be a big factor in poor mental health, is welcome. The government’s wider strategy to tackle drug misuse by focusing on treatment and recovery, which has been informed by Dame Carol Black’s independent review on drug use, is an important step in reducing drug addiction and curtailing the supply of drugs. There are concerns, however, that £421m is a relatively small amount of money to tackle a very substantial problem, particularly given this week’s revelation of the rising numbers of young people hospitalised with problems triggered by cannabis use. It may be that an even firmer commitment, backed by greater funding, is needed to address the problem effectively.