Surge in young people entering private clinics as poorer drug addicts 'pushed into gangs' - The Independent

The number of children under 18 who access public services of drug addiction and alcoholism has collapsed despite the increase in drug abuse by young people, while the number of young people admitted to private rehabilitation services has soared .

Experts fear that an increasing number of teenagers are being "pushed into the gangs" because an increase in drug use among under-18s, along with a continued decline in funding for free treatment services, makes these young people "mature for grooming ".

The new government figures reveal that the number of teenagers in public substance abuse services decreased 5% last year, from 16,436 to 15,583, while the percentage of these 18-year-olds who have used drugs has increased since 10% in 2014 to 15% two years later.

Almost one fifth of the students say they have taken a drug in the last year, while separate data show that school exclusions for alcohol and drug use have increased significantly in recent years, up by 95% since 2011.

Separate figures supplied to L & # 39; Independent meanwhile they show that the number of 21-year-olds who have been admitted to one of the UK's leading drug rehab facilities for substance-based addictions has increased 186% over the past three years, from 93 patients in 2015 to 266 ;year.

UK Addiction Treatment (UKAT) operates six facilities in England and helps people fund care on their own, with costs starting at £ 10,000 for three months.

Eytan Alexander, founder of UKAT, said that the increase in young people who pay for the treatment of drug addiction and alcoholism stems from their inability to access public services or be taken seriously.

"We are witnessing a growing number of young adults registering with rehabilitation simply because the publicly available systems are invalidating them," he said.

"These young people have had incredibly difficult beginnings in their lives and it is imperative that services are accessible and available to allow their lives to get back on track".

Spending on drug and alcohol support services throughout England has been reduced in the past four years. Figures obtained from L & # 39; Independent The local councils have had to reduce their tens of millions of pounds budgets since 2013 last year.

The decline of publicly funded dependency services has fueled concerns for young people who can not afford private rehabilitation are going without help, which experts fear is pushing teenagers to exploit gangs.

Ian Hamilton, a professor of addiction at the University of York, said: "You have already exceeded the limit of the use of drugs and alcohol in a problematic way, enough to exclude yourself from school, so you can not go to school. There are fewer places available for drug treatment, even if support is desired.

"I'm sure some of them are inadvertently pushed into gangs, they'll find peer support and a bit of identity and belonging … People who use the county line system take advantage of this kind of children. .

"Austerity is partly responsible for this.There have been cuts to the pharmacological treatment of young people.These services used to go out and reach these children and find them.This is obviously a bit more expensive and time consuming, but it's what children need. "

Government figures show that two-thirds of young people who have access to substance abuse services were male. 43% of women were 16 or older, compared to almost half (49%) of males.

One in 20 young people in treatment said they had undergone sexual exploitation, with the vast majority of adolescent victims, with 13% of all young women entering the service claiming to have been sexually exploited.

The number of children under 14 years of treatment has increased compared to the previous year, from 1,342 in 2016/17 to 1,422 last year.

The drugs used by adolescents are also changing, with the number of children treated for tranquilizer addiction doubled in over a year by more than 300. Xanax was the most acute increase – from eight children who received treatment in the 2016-17 to 53 in 2017-18.

There was also a sharp increase in the number of young people entering treatment for ecstasy problems, with figures increasing 16% over the previous year and nearly doubling since 2014.

In the same period there was also an 18% increase in young people treated for cocaine crack problems, although numbers were much lower (83 in 2016-2017 and 98 in 2017-2018).

Cannabis remained the most common drug by far which young people came to treatment for, with the 88 per cent of young people in specialist services saying they had a problem with it.

A government spokesperson said: “We are absolutely committed to protecting the most vulnerable against the harms of drug misuse. This data shows that young people are able to access NHS drug treatment quickly – with the vast majority remaining in treatment until their addiction is under control.

“We are also giving local authorities over £3bn this year to provide public health services, including drug support and treatment, and have been clear that prevention will be at the heart of our upcoming long-term plan for the NHS – backed by a funding settlement of an extra £20.5bn a year by 2023/4.”

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