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Evidence Base – Substance misuse

Substance misuse is once again recommended as a priority in the 2017/18 strategic assessment. The previous strategic assessment identified Novel Psychoactive Substances (NPS, or legal highs) as a priority however the number of service users accessing treatment for NPS use has notably reduced following the NPS ban under the Psychoactive Substances Act 2016. This year’s assessment therefore focuses on a broader understanding of substance misuse, recognising the impact that alcohol as well as drugs can have on residents and communities.

Drug- and alcohol-related offending in South Gloucestershire increased 38% in the past 12 months compared to the previous year. Nearly half of the offences related to assault occasioning actual bodily harm, common assault and battery. Of the 171 drug users on the criminal justice caseload in the past 12 months, 66% were in structured treatment. Looking at the success of treatment overall, 95% of all opiate and crack users engaged in the local treatment system were effectively engaged which helps ensure that they use less or abstain from using drugs, commit fewer crimes, and improve their health and quality of life. The number of clients in treatment for alcohol misuse rose 15% compared to the previous year, with 51% of services users successfully completing their treatment against a national average of 39%.

Looking at the health impacts of substance misuse, the trend of alcohol-related hospital admissions in 2014/2015 recorded the highest level of increase in South Gloucestershire since 2008/2009, with 2004 persons per 100,000 of the population admitted to hospital. All priority neighbourhood areas registered above this average rate with the exception of Yate and Dodington. The majority of the admission causes related to mental and behavioural disorders following alcohol use. Mental health issues were once again noted by several partners and should remain an area of concern for the partnership, although mental health has not been selected as a priority in its own right.

Young people are impacted by substance misuse, and 78 young people received a care planned treatment intervention in South Gloucestershire last year with 95% citing cannabis as problematic; cannabis was also prevalent in the drug-related offences recorded in the Youth Offending cohort. Most drug-related criminal offences recorded by the police and related to young people were linked to possession of cannabis for personal use. NDTMS data has identified that young people accessing treatment within South Gloucestershire start using substances before the age of 15 and that 79% are using two or more substances.

Dealing with substance misuse issues is a true multi-agency effort, with everyone from treatment services, enforcement services, licensing and housing having a role to play. All of the Priority Neighbourhood forums (with the exception of Cadbury Heath) consider substance misuse as one of their top priorities and it’s an issue of concern to residents which is recommended as a priority for the partnership going forward.