Thousands of people are alcohol and drug dependent in Gloucestershire while at least one in three adults have taken illegal drugs in their lifetime, according to the latest figures.

Drugs and, to a far greater extent, alcohol use is widespread in the county with 29% of people drinking above the weekly recommended amount of booze.

The Crime Survey of England and Wales for 2021 shows 9.4% of adults report drug use within the last year which equates to around 32,400 Gloucestershire residents. Most of these (7.8%) are likely to be cannabis users.

The report, which was considered by Gloucestershire County Council chiefs this week as they approved the tender and award a contract for the delivery of community drug and alcohol services for adults from April 2024, says drug use is more frequent among those aged between 16 and 24.

Of these 21% reported the use of an illegal drug within the last year which equates to around 12,780 young people. In terms of problem drug use, there are estimated to be 2,849 heroin and crack users in the county, including 2,414 heroin users.

This equates to 0.7% of the adult population of the county, or 7.33 heroin and crack users per thousand population. This is lower than both the England (8.85 per thousand population) and the South West (8.32 per thousand population) prevalence rates.

Based upon these estimates of opiate and crack use, around 48.9% were in treatment in 2019-20 compared to the national average of 46.1%, with an even larger proportion of the opiate cohort, 53.6%, receiving treatment in that year with the national average being 52.9%.

There are an estimated 5,509 people experiencing alcohol dependence in Gloucestershire which is similar to the national average and has not changed significantly since 2010. Between 2017 to 2019, the alcohol-specific mortality rate in Gloucestershire was 7.3 per 100,000 population (140 deaths over the 3-year period), compared with 10.9 per 100,000 population in England.

Areas with the highest levels of deprivation suffer the worst harms, with higher levels of drug use, drug related deaths and drug crime being most prevalent, and alcohol related health harms being concentrated within the districts with the highest levels of deprivation.

Gloucestershire County Councillor Paul Hodgkinson (LD, Bourton-on-the-Water, Northleach) asked if it was time for a rethink in the county strategy in tackling drink and drug problems.

“Whilst the suggestions in the report take some steps to try to address this, surely with such massive numbers involved there has to be a major rethink in how drink and drug problems are tackled? What is your strategy for how the council deals long term with widespread drug and alcohol use?”

Gloucestershire County Council leader Mark Hawhorne (C, Quedgeley) said tackling rising drug and alcohol use should not be seen in isolation, with treatment and recovery services being just one part of the solution.

He said: “The trends are closely linked with geographic and socioeconomic inequalities and a ‘whole system’ approach is needed, one that treats addiction as a chronic condition and tackles mental and physical health alongside wider determinants such as housing and employment.

“The National Drugs Strategy guidance for local authorities (2022) recommended that local areas convene multi-agency partnerships that will work together to achieve the ambitions of the strategy, including to: break drug supply chains, improve the quality of treatment and recovery services and achieve a shift in the demand for drugs.

“Gloucestershire’s Combating Drugs Partnership (CDP) is in its infancy but is committed to tackling these complex issues together. Following completion of the recent drug and alcohol needs assessment, the CDP is currently developing its first action plan covering prevention, treatment and recovery, and enforcement.”

Substance abuse organisation Change Grow Live Gloucestershire has held the drug and alcohol recovery service contract across the county since 2017. During this time, the service has exceeded the target number of those in treatment year on year. It is currently providing support to over 2,600 people across the county.

Operations manager of the service Rae Davies said: “Addiction recovery is no quick fix. It’s often a long and challenging process for some of the most vulnerable people in our communities. I am incredibly proud of the work my team does to help others, particularly linked-up working with partners in housing, mental health and children services.

“We also strive to take the stigma out of addiction. At the end of the day, we are all people. We have recently been working on our ‘Real People’ campaign to share the stories of those dealing with addiction.”

By Carmelo Garcia – Local Democracy Reporter

Gloucester News Centre – http://gloucesternewscentre.co.uk

Thousands of residents are drug and alcohol dependent, new figures suggest by | Gloucester News Centre - http://gloucesternewscentre.co.uk/
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