Adult substance misuse services

Substance misuse is the continued use of drugs or alcohol despite negative consequences to the individual using the substance, and their friends, family and the community. All substance misuse has potential health, social and criminal consequences.

Proportion of treatment users waiting three weeks or less for first intervention

From 2005-06 to 2015-16, adult waiting times for treatment improved substantially. In 2015-16, in all four groups, 95% or more of treatment users were waiting three weeks or less for their first intervention. The greatest improvements were seen in alcohol treatment users, improving from 73% of people waiting three weeks or less for treatment in 2005-06 to 96% in 2015-16.

Updated January 2017.

Why are patients exiting substance misuse treatment and how has this changed?

There are many different reasons why an individual may exit treatment. This chart shows the main reasons for this.

Of those adults in treatment, the proportion who exited treatment in each year free of dependence increased from 43% in 2009-10 to 50.5% in 2015-16 and has remained above 50% since 2011-12. Differences in the proportion of successful completions across user groups can be seen in more detail in the next chart below.

The proportion of those in treatment who dropped out or left, decreased from 30.2% in 2009-10 to a low of 24.8% in 2011-12, but had increased to 30.3% by 2015-16. The number of users who were transferred out of their current care structure to receive further care in the community or prison fell from 15.5% in 2009-10 to 13.2% in 2015-16. A similar trend was seen in the number of users declining treatment which fell from 3.8% in 2009-10 to 2.2% in 2015-16.

Updated January 2017.

Proportion completing treatment free of dependence

Individuals who achieve completion of drug treatment demonstrate a significant improvement in health and wellbeing in terms of increased longevity, reduced blood-borne virus transmission, improved parenting skills and improved physical and psychological health.

The chart shows adult service users who were free of dependence after the programme, including users who continued to use other illicit drugs, but this use was considered unproblematic by a clinician. From 2011-12 onwards the majority of users finished the treatment and were free from drugs and alcohol. In 2015-16, 50% of adult service users successfully completed treatment, up from 43% in 2009-10. Opiate users have the lowest levels of service users completing treatment free of dependence (28% in 2015-16) whilst non-opiate users generally show the highest levels (60% in 2015-16).

Updated January 2017.

About this data

For full methodology of data collection, please see Public Health England: Drugs and alcohol - official statistics.

In 2009-10 the National Drug Treatment Monitoring System discharge codes and their definitions were revised. This was done to enable greater accuracy of measurement and to improve the consistency of the way in which clinical services code discharges.

Changes included a tightening of the way in which ‘treatment completed’ is recorded. Revised codes and definitions now distinguish between clients that are entirely drug free at the time of discharge, and those that are abstinent from the problem drug for which they sought treatment. And new codes distinguish between clients that are ‘referred on’ to treatment within either a community or prison setting. Because of this issue, the ability to directly compare 2009-10 and 2010-11 data to previous years is affected.

For alcohol treatment, when 'other' is referenced as an exit reason, this includes: transferred – not in custody; transferred – in custody; referred on (old code); treatment withdrawn/breach of contract; moved away; prison; died; other; not known; no appropriate treatment; and patient refused treatment.

Percentages may not add up to exactly 100% due to rounding at source.

Adults are defined as over 18 years of age.


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