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Addiction Statistics in the UK

Posted on June 21, 2022

Addiction Statistics in the UK

In the UK, thousands of people are living with some form of substance abuse or addiction. Drug abuse, alcoholism, and other forms of dependency are big problems, and there is abundant independent research that indicates the scale of the problem.

Treating addiction is hugely important, and that’s why there are so many options up and down the country for individuals to access detox, therapy, and relapse prevention services.

Drug abuse in the UK

Amongst adults aged 16 to 59, just over 2% in the UK used drugs more than once a month, considering their use as ‘frequent’. This percentage increased to over 4% in those aged 16 to 24 [1].

Just under 3,000 people died in the UK in 2020 due to drug misuse, and a further 4,500 died specifically due to drug poisoning [2]

Around 1.3 million people said that they used a Class A drug over the course of the year in 2019 [3]. In the same report, 1 in 9 young people said that they had taken a drug in the last month, 8.7% of which said they used a Class A drug.

Alcohol misuse in the UK

As of 2017, the percentage of adults in the UK that claimed to drink 5 or more times a week was 10%.

The same study also found that, on their heaviest drinking day of the week, almost 7% of women exceeded 9 units and 10% of men exceeded 12 units [4]. The NHS recommends that individuals ingest no more than 14 units of alcohol per week.

Over the last 30 years, there has been a gradual increase pertaining to how many people die each year as a result of alcohol. In 1995, that number was around 4,500 whereas in 2016 it reached just over 9,000 [5].

The same report also found that the 2016 rate per 100,000 people of alcohol-related deaths was almost twice as high in men (20.2) than in women (9.8).

From 2019 to 2020, the rate of alcohol-caused death increased by just under 20% [6].

Substance-specific statistics

Over the past 30 years, cannabis has been the most widely used drug in the UK. Nearly 8% of adults are reported to use it, a drastically higher figure than the second most-used drug, powder cocaine, which is just under 3% [1].

Of all of the people who began drug or alcohol misuse treatment during 2021, 60% had alcohol problems, 29% had opiate problems, and 20% had issues with crack cocaine. Other substances included cannabis (21%) and cocaine (15%) [7].

In 2015, a study by the Royal College of Anaesthetists found that 5.4% of adults aged 16 to 59 had abused a painkiller substance that they had not been prescribed by a medical professional [8].

This misuse was found to be more prevalent in younger people, with the percentage increasing to 7.2% in those aged 16 to 24.

Addiction treatment in the UK

Between 2020 and 2021, a report found that over 130,000 people began some form of drug or alcohol dependency treatment in the UK [5].

In 2020, over 100,000 people were reported to have started alcohol-specific treatment [9].

Treatment for addiction

Those who struggle with addictions are strongly advised to seek medical help to beat whatever form of dependency they have developed. Regardless of whether it is drugs or alcohol, unhealthy substance use can only be overcome by attending addiction rehab.

What does addiction treatment involve?

Rehab begins with detox, the process of ridding the body of its physical reliance on a substance. It can often be a dangerous stage of treatment – especially when it comes to alcohol – and those who undergo detox must do so under medical supervision.

This degree of danger stems from the withdrawal that individuals go through when they undergo detox.

These can range from being mildly uncomfortable to putting an individual’s life in danger, and must therefore be closely monitored.

Detox is usually aided with the prescription of benzodiazepines, drugs which dampen withdrawal and give individuals the physical and psychological stability to become sober.

Once sobriety has been established, individuals move onto therapy, a stage of treatment that focuses on the underlying motivations and triggers that sustain harmful substance use.

Therapy, depending on the form utilised, can look at an individual’s thought processes, emotions, or social life in order to identify why they consume such unhealthy quantities of a substance.

For example, individuals undergoing Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) are supported in identifying the thoughts and mindsets that regularly push them toward substance abuse. From this, they are taught to establish methods of combatting these triggers.

Getting help from Rehab Recovery

From the facts and figures, it is clear to see that addiction affects millions of people throughout the UK. It is a condition that can affect anyone, and getting treatment is a vital part of getting healthy.

At Rehab Recovery, we understand that reaching out for help is not an easy thing to do. Developing an addiction can be scary, and finding the right kind of support can feel even more daunting.

That’s why we’re on hand to provide support, guidance, and any information that you need. We’re here to help, so don’t hesitate to get in touch and give us a call on 0800 088 66 86.











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