The number of drug and alcohol addicts getting government-funded support to tackle their addictions has plummeted by 10 per cent in just three years, The Independent can reveal.
As substance-related deaths hit a record high, new Public Health England (PHE) figures reveal that after ministers decided to remove the ring-fenced drug and alcohol budget in 2013, one in 10 addicts who had been receiving help is no longer getting this support.
The total number of interventions across community services, inpatient detoxification, residential rehab and primary care received by clients for addiction have fallen from 308,118 in 2013-14 to 278,489 in 2016-17, the data shows.
The drop in government-funded support comes after The Independent revealed earlier this year that councils across England have slashed budgets for drug and alcohol treatment by 15 per cent in the past four years.
They were spending over £105m less on helping people tackle their addictions.
While grants provided to local authorities by PHE have risen from £2.66bn four years ago to £3.30bn this year, there has been a transfer of new responsibilities to councils during this period. This has equated to a real-terms cut to council budgets.
Drug-related deaths across England and Wales are at a record high, with figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) showing that 3,744 people were fatally poisoned by drugs in 2016 – the highest number since comparable statistics began in 1993.
Hospitals are also seeing more than one million admissions relating to alcohol each year.
A review published by Public Health England late last year reported that alcohol is now the “leading risk factor for ill-health, early mortality and disability” among 15- to 49-year-olds.
Britain’s leading rehabilitation facilitator, UK Addiction Treatment Centres (Ukat), said its services have seen admissions for private alcohol addiction hit record highs this year, which as statutory places diminish, suggests a shift in how addicts are accessing treatment in order to get sober.
Responding to the PHE figures, Ukat’s founder Eytan Alexander said: “Budgets have been cut almost in half in many areas, leaving community treatment centres with less money to process referrals to either public or private rehab centres.
“Slashing budgets threatens not only the health but the lives of some of the most vulnerable people in society. It’s a false economy as the burden is simple transferred onto an already stretched NHS which is facing a winter crisis.”
A government spokesperson said: “While figures show that outcomes of drug and alcohol treatment remain stable, we will not be complacent – the Government’s 2017 drug strategy targets the illicit drug trade, protects the most vulnerable and helps those with drug dependency to recover and turn their lives around.
“Of those who exited the drug and alcohol treatment system in 2016-17, almost half of them have successfully completed their treatment free of dependence.”