The latest (28 July 2016) Statistics on Drug Misuse for England deliver good and bad news in almost equal proportions.
The stats are published by the Health and Social Care Information Centre (which is described as an executive non-departmental public body, sponsored by the Department of Health).
The good news
In 2015/16, around 1 in 12 (8.4%) adults aged 16 to 59 are taking an illicit drug in the last year, equating to around 2.7 million people. This level of drug use was similar to the 2014/15 survey (8.6%), but is significantly lower than a decade ago (10.5% in the 2005/06 survey).
Around 1 in 5 (18%) young adults aged 16 to 24 had taken an illicit drug in the last year, equating to around 1.1 million people. This level of drug use was similar to the 2014/15 survey (19.5%), but significantly lower compared with a decade ago (25.2% in the 2005/06 survey).
As in previous years, cannabis was the most commonly used drug, with 6.5% of adults aged 16 to 59 having used it in the last year (around 2.1 million people). This was similar to the 2014/15 survey (6.7%), but shows a significant fall over a decade ago (8.7%).
The prevalence of drug use among 11 to 15-year-olds in England declined between 2001 and 2010. Since then, the decline has slowed. In 2014 (the most recent year for which data is available), 15% of pupils had ever taken drugs, 10% had taken drugs in the last year and 6% had taken drugs in the last month.
The bad news
In 2014 there were 2,248 deaths which were related to drug misuse – 0.5% of all deaths. This is an increase of 15% on 2013 and 44% higher than 2004. Deaths related to drug misuse are at their highest level since comparable records began in 1993. 61% of drug-related deaths were for people aged between 30 and 49 and 72% of deaths were men.
In 2014/15, there were 8,149 hospital admissions with a primary diagnosis of drug related mental health and behavioural disorders. Although this is 14% more than 2013/14, it is only 4% higher than 2004/05.
However, hospital admissions with a primary or secondary diagnosis of drug related mental and behavioural disorders have risen alarmingly. There were 74,801 such hospital admissions in 2014/15 – 9% more than 2013/14 and over double the level 2004/05 (although part of this increase is attributed to better recording practices). 59% of these admissions were of patients aged between 25 and 44 and 69% of admissions were men.
The HSCIC also provides information about the use of legal highs/new psychoactive substances, derived from the Crime Survey for England and Wales for 2015/16. Fewer than 1 in a 100 (0.7%) of adults had used an NPS in the last year, similar to the estimate from 2014/15. Men were much more likely to have used an NPS then women (1.1% compared with 0.4% of women). Rates among young adults (16 to 24-year-olds) were higher. Around 1 in 40 (2.6%) young adults took an NPS in the last year, again similar to the previous year. 3.6% of young men had used an NPS in the last year compared to 1.6% of young women.
The main drug misuse findings from this year’s Crime Survey for England Wales are summarised in the Home Office infographic reproduced below: