More young people are recovering from drug and alcohol misuse according to new NHS statistics


More young people are overcoming their problems with drug and alcohol misuse than ever before, according to the latest statistics for England released by the National Treatment Agency for Substance Misuse (NTA). 75% (10,507) of under-18s leaving drug and alcohol services last year successfully completed their programmes, compared to 48% (4,105) five years ago.

The NTA said the rise showed that young people were increasingly responding to specialist treatment before problematic drug and alcohol habits became entrenched. New data released for the first time showed that the majority of youngsters needing help for substance misuse also have other emotional or social problems, such as self-harming, offending or not in education, employment or training (NEET).

The national statistics and trends show that:

  • The overall number of young people accessing specialist substance misuse services appears to have peaked, as numbers have fallen for the second year running (to 21,955 from a peak of 24,053 in 2008-9).
  • Waiting times remain low, and government funding has been maintained at £25 million despite financial pressures, so any young person who needs specialist help can get it.
  • The vast majority of these vulnerable under-18s (nine out of ten) primarily receive support for problems with cannabis or alcohol.
  • Very few are treated for Class A drugs like heroin, cocaine or ecstasy, and this small number has more than halved to 770, compared to 1,859 five years ago.
  • The only drug category to see any increase was amphetamines (from 256 to 639). These include mephedrone, now classified as a Class B banned drug.

Rosanna O’Connor, NTA Director of Delivery, said:

Any substance misuse among young people is a cause for concern. The good news is that if young people need help they can get it quickly, before their use is entrenched, and they respond particularly well to drug and alcohol programmes.

Three-quarters of those leaving last year successfully completed a treatment programme, which is a big improvement from under half five years ago. Surveys show that fewer young people are using drugs, but services are getting better for those who do have problems, and outcomes are improving.

It is also encouraging that the number needing help for Class A drugs particularly heroin, continues to fall. The advent of new substances like mephedrone shows that services need to be ready to respond to changing needs, but fortunately the numbers needing specialist interventions remain low.


Substance misuse among young people: 2010-11 (PDF). NHS National Treatment Agency for Substance Misuse, 8 Dec 2011.

Statistics for young people in specialist drug and alcohol services in England 2010-11 (PDF). National Drug Treatment Monitoring System, 8 Dec 2011.

Statistics from the National Drug Treatment Monitoring System (NDTMS) Statistics relating to young people England, 1 April 2010– 31 March 2011 (PDF). NHS National Treatment Agency for Substance Misuse, 8 Dec 2011.

Substance misuse among young people: the data for 2010-11 – tables for publication (XLS). NHS National Treatment Agency for Substance Misuse, 8 Dec 2011.

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Andre Tomlin

André Tomlin is an Information Scientist with 20 years experience working in evidence-based healthcare. He's worked in the NHS, for Oxford University and since 2002 as Managing Director of Minervation Ltd, a consultancy company who do clever digital stuff for charities, universities and the public sector. Most recently André has been the driving force behind the Mental Elf and the National Elf Service; an innovative digital platform that helps professionals keep up to date with simple, clear and engaging summaries of evidence-based research. André is a Trustee at the Centre for Mental Health and an Honorary Research Fellow at University College London Division of Psychiatry. He lives in Bristol, surrounded by dogs, elflings and lots of woodland!

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