Should the UK invest in drug treatment?


The problem of drug abuse is not new to the UK. In fact, according to the NTA (National Treatment Agency for drug abuse), approximately 2.7 million adults used an illegal drug in 2013. With such figures, the need for drug treatment may seem obvious. However, the economic changes that have occurred in the UK over the past few years have put these efforts at risk. There have been calls, however, to re-prioritise government spending and programmes, such as those geared towards drug treatment.

Now more than ever

It has never been more important for the UK to invest in drug treatment. The current figures for abuse of drugs and alcohol show a worrying trend that, if left to continue, may soon turn into a public health disaster. In 2014 there were approximately 294,000 users of heroin or crack cocaine; 40 percent of the prisoners in the UK had also used cocaine by then and the number of people affected by drug usage in their families was estimated to be at 1.2 million.

The figures for alcohol were no better, with 9 million adults said to be drinking at levels that are considered high-risk. 1.6 million of these drinkers were showing signs of alcohol dependence i.e. addiction. In 2012, it is said that 21,485 people had died due to causes related to alcohol. It is also said that one quarter of the deaths of men aged between 16-24 years was connected to alcohol use.

The death rates among heroin addicts by then was 10 times higher than that of the general population. The only thing that is more worrying than these figures is the fact that drug use tends to increase in periods of economic upheaval, especially among poorer communities.

The costs of drug use

The annual cost of drug use to the UK alone is several billion pounds. Criminal activities by people who use drugs are very common. Heroin and crack addicts not in treatment commit crimes estimated at 26,000 pounds each, every year and a typical heroin user spends up to 1,400 pounds every month on the drug. This is more than twice the average mortgage in the UK.

The UK’s National Health Service spends 488 million pounds every year due to cases of drug abuse and taking care of the children of drug addicted parents costs up to 42.5 million pounds. All in all, the UK loses over 15 billion pounds annually as a result of drug abuse.

How does investing in drug treatment help?

Investing in drug treatment can help to create greater awareness of the dangers of drug abuse, especially among vulnerable groups. It can also help to create support systems that will make it easier for drug users to recover. This money can also go into providing better treatment, housing and employment for recovering drug users. Investing in drug treatment can help to bring down the number of addicts and this will not only reduce losses due to crime but also turn the drug users into more productive people.

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