Latest alcohol and drug treatment statistics

Public Health England has published the latest alcohol and drug treatment statistics, which are for April 2017 to March 2018


The report contains a wide range of data, which includes trends over recent years. This Public Health Matters article focuses on the following issues that this year’s statistics have shown:

  • Alcohol treatment numbers are still falling
  • Crack cocaine treatment numbers are still rising
  • Better data on drugs and mental health problems
  • Better data on parental substance misuse
  • Housing and homelessness

All the data points towards treatment services needing to reach out to the most vulnerable people in their population and to make sure they are able to respond to changing patterns of need.

More information on the treatment statistics can be found in the report summary  and in the full report, including all the data tables and charts.

Full article: What we’ve learned from the latest alcohol and drug treatment statistics

Full report: Substance misuse treatment for adults: statistics 2017 to 2018

Public Health England has conducted a rapid inquiry to better understand what was behind the fall in numbers of people in treatment for alcohol dependence in England. The report,PHE inquiry into the fall in numbers of people in alcohol treatment: findings’ sets out findings from the inquiry as well as recommendations and next steps.

Adolescents drink less, although levels of alcohol consumption are still dangerously high

WHO| September 2018 | Adolescents drink less, although levels of alcohol consumption are still dangerously high

WHO have published a new report- Adolescent alcohol-related behaviours: trends and inequalities in the WHO European Region, 2002–2014- which looks at data between 2002-2014 to provide new insights into adolescent drinking. 

Although the report finds that alcohol consumption by teenagers has declined, levels of consumption by adolescents remain high; with one-tenth of  adolescents in the Region were regular weekly drinkers by the age of 15 (9% of girls and 16% of boys) in 2014.


Key findings in the report

The research,  documents the drinking habits of European adolescents in 36 countries. The trend analysis uses data collected during four rounds of the Health Behaviour in School-aged Children (HBSC) survey. Worrying trends in drinking behaviour were identified:

  • Excessive drinking is still common, with around a quarter of boys and more than 1 in 5 girls reporting having been drunk two or more times by the age of 15. Since 2002, the greatest declines in drunkenness were observed in Nordic countries.
  • More than 1 in 4 15-year-olds (28%) reported that they started consuming alcohol at age 13 or younger (25% of girls and 31% of boys) in 2014. This has fallen from 46% in 2002, with downward trends similar in magnitude for boys and girls in most countries.
  • Over time gender differences for weekly drinking have converged in northern Europe, with girls and boys now reporting similar levels. Wider gender divides persist in central-eastern and southern Europe, where prevalence for boys is currently around twice that of girls.
  • Around 1 in 10 adolescents reported first being drunk at age 13 or younger (7% of girls and 9% of boys) in 2014. This has more than halved since 2002 (from 17% to 8%), with declines among both boys and girls, although in most countries the decline was greatest in boys (Source: WHO).

‘Drink Free Days’ to encourage middle- aged drinkers to cut down

Public Health England | September 2018 |Public Health England and Drinkaware launch Drink Free Days

A new press release from Public Health England highlights how two thirds of regular drinkers say that cutting down on their drinking is harder than improving diet or exercise.

In a new collaboration Public Health England and alcohol education charity Drinkaware have  jointly launching a new campaign ‘Drink Free Days’ to help people cut down on the amount of alcohol they are regularly drinking. 


The campaign has been designed to encourage middle aged drinkers to reduce their alcohol intake by taking days off from drinking, which is a way of reducing health risks from alcohol.

The more alcohol people drink , the greater their risk of developing a number of serious potentially life limiting health conditions, such as high blood pressure and heart disease, as well as 7 types of cancer (Source: PHE).


Read the full release here 

You can download the Drink Free Days app from Public Health England here 


RCGP’s response to the  Alcohol guidelines ‘set for a reason’, says RCGP
Drinkaware’s Drink Compare Calculator 

In the media:

BBC News Middle-aged should have ‘drink-free’ days, say campaigners 

UCL research indicates that arteries of youths who smoke and drink are already starting to stiffen

UCL | August 218 |UCL research indicates that arteries youths who smoke and drink are already starting to harden 

New research from University College London (UCL) shows that smoking and drinking even infrequently and at lower levels (than in adult studies) as a youth , is linked to loss of arterial elasticity (arterial stiffening) (via UCL).

The study used analysed data from  more than 1,200 adolescents from Children of the 90s, the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC), during a five-year period between 2004 and 2008.


“We found that in this large contemporary British cohort, drinking and smoking in adolescence, even at lower levels compared to those reported in adult studies, is associated with arterial stiffening and atherosclerosis progression,” said senior author, Professor John Deanfield (UCL Institute of Cardiovascular Science).

Interestingly the research team also discovered “that if teenagers stopped smoking and drinking during adolescence, their arteries returned to normal suggesting that there are opportunities to preserve arterial health from a young age.”

Dr Mariettta  Charakida who was part of the team involved in the research said: “The age at which participants started drinking alcohol was not associated with arterial health, suggesting that duration of exposure might not be that important at this young age,” added Dr Charakida. “In addition, no beneficial effect of low alcohol consumption was found with regards to arterial health.”

Read the full press release at UCL

The research article is published in the European Heart Journal 



To determine the impact of smoking and alcohol exposure during adolescence on arterial stiffness at 17 years.

Methods and results

Smoking and alcohol use were assessed by questionnaires at 13, 15, and 17 years in 1266 participants (425 males and 841 females) from the ALSPAC study. Smoking status (smokers and non-smoker) and intensity (‘high’ more than or equal to 100, ‘moderate’ 20–99, and ‘low or never’ less than 20 cigarettes in lifetime) were ascertained. Participants were classified by frequency (low or high) and intensity of drinking [light (LI less than 2), medium (MI 3–9), and heavy (HI more than 10 drinks on a typical drinking day)]. Carotid to femoral pulse wave velocity (PWV) was assessed at 17 years [mean ± standard deviation and/or mean difference (95% confidence intervals)]. Current smokers had higher PWV compared with non-smokers (P = 0.003). Higher smoking exposure was associated with higher PWV compared with non-smokers. Participants who stopped smoking had similar PWV to never smokers (P = 0.160). High-intensity drinkers had increased PWV. There was an additive effect of smoking intensity and alcohol intensity, so that ‘high’ smokers who were also HI drinkers had higher PWV compared with never-smokers and LI drinkers [mean adjusted increase 0.603.


Smoking exposure even at low levels and intensity of alcohol use were associated individually and together with increased arterial stiffness. Public health strategies need to prevent adoption of these habits in adolescence to preserve or restore arterial health.

Full reference: Charakida, M. et al.| 2018|Early vascular damage from smoking and alcohol in teenage years: the ALSPAC study|European Heart Journal|  ehy524 |

This article can be requested by Rotherham NHS staff here 


In the news:

BBC News Teenagers who smoke and drink suffer ill effects by age of 17

Heavy drinkers generate alcohol industries profit

University of Sheffield | August 2018 | Two-thirds of alcohol sales are to heavy drinkers 

A new study from the University of Sheffield’s Alcohol Research Group in conjunction with the Institute of Alcohol Studies research has  found that alcoholic beverages purchased in supermarkets and off-licences (81 per cent) compared to pubs, bars, clubs and restaurants (60 per cent)  were more likely to be consumed above guideline levels. The research findings which have now been published in the journal Addiction show that if people consuming alcohol followed guidance and adhered to recommended levels of intake, sales of alcohol would plummet by £13 billion. 

The study also indicates that heavy drinkers generate a greater share of revenue for producers of beer (77 per cent), cider (70 per cent) and wine (66 per cent) than spirits (50 per cent).


Notable findings :

• Drinkers consuming more than the government’s low-risk guideline of 14 units per week make up a quarter of the population, but provide 68 per cent of industry revenue.

• Four per cent of the population drinking at levels identified as ‘harmful’ account for almost a quarter (23 per cent) of the total value of all alcohol sold.

The research, also explores the financial importance of heavy drinking to different types of retailers and producers (via University of Sheffield).

The full news release is available from the University of Sheffield 

The journal article is available from Addiction 

Full reference: Maheswaran, R., Green, M. A., Strong, M., Brindley, P., Angus, C., and Holmes, J. | 2018|  Alcohol outlet density and alcohol related hospital admissions in England: a national small‐area level ecological study|  Addiction|


Alcohol outlet density and alcohol related hospital admissions in England: a national small‐area level ecological study via Wiley 

In the news:

The Telegraph Heavy drinkers fuel alcohol industry

Evening Standard Alcohol Firms would lose a staggering £13bn if drinkers in England stuck to limits, study shows 

Developing pathways for alcohol treatment

Guidance on referring alcohol dependent patients from hospital to specialist alcohol treatment in the hospital or in the community | Public Health England


This guidance is about developing pathways for referral and care and for patients whose routine alcohol screening in secondary care suggests that they may be alcohol dependent.

It can be used by people implementing the Preventing ill health by risky behaviours – alcohol and tobacco CQUIN in acute, mental health and community trusts. It can also be used by NHS commissioners and planners and those planning, commissioning and providing community alcohol treatment.

The guidance aims to:

  • show the components of treatment for dependent drinking
  • describe what helps patients’ smooth passage through their treatment for alcohol dependence

Full guidance: Developing pathways for referring patients from secondary care to specialist alcohol treatment