Thousands of children are falling through the cracks in youth addiction services owing to Covid, staff shortages and funding cuts, psychiatrists have said, as figures suggest the number able to get help has fallen to the lowest on record.
Analysis of data from the National Drug Treatment Monitoring System (NDTMS) found that 11,013 under-18s were in treatment for drug and alcohol dependency in England in 2020-21, which was 3,278 fewer (23% less) than in 2019-20. It was the sharpest annual fall since records began, and means 13,481 fewer children were being treated than at a peak in 2008-09.
The vast majority of children in treatment (89%, or 9,832) had a problem with cannabis and 41% (4,459) had a problem with alcohol. About 12% (1,333) were struggling with ecstasy use and 9% (976) reported a problem with powder cocaine.
The Royal College of Psychiatrists, which analysed the data, said the pandemic, together with “drastic” historical funding cuts, was preventing young people from accessing the drug and alcohol treatment they need, potentially condemning them to a life of addiction.
Dr Emily Finch, the vice-chair of the addictions faculty at the Royal College of Psychiatrists, said: “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.
“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 multimillion-pound investment into drug services.”
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Source: The Guardian, 3 February 2022