The latest National Statistics on illicit drug use in England and Wales were released last Thursday (26 July 2018) by the Home Office and Office for National Statistics, based on self reported responses from the 2017/18 Crime Survey for England and Wales (CSEW).
To add some useful context it’s important to remember that the CSEW figures are a often only a measure of ‘mainstream recreational’ drug use, rather than problematic and dependent use. For a more accurate view of this use the NDTMS treatment service collection will provide a more focused and useful data set.
The CSEW is a household survey and as a result does not include those who are homeless or in prison.
However; even with these often cited limitations the CSEW drug module has been operating since 1996 and as a result provides an excellent and consistent longitudinal comparison of drug use over 22 years.
- Around 1 in 11 (9.0%) adults aged 16 to 59 had taken a drug in the last year. This equated to around 3.0 million people, and was similar to 2016/17 (8.5%). The trend in last year drug use among 16 to 59 year olds has been relatively flat since the 2009/10 survey and the latest estimate was similar to the 2007/08 survey (9.4%). However, the 2017/18 prevalence estimate is lower than in 1996 (11.1%), when the time series began.
- Around 1 in 5 (19.8%) adults aged 16 to 24 had taken a drug in the last year. This proportion was more than double that of the wider age group, and equates to around 1.2 million people. This was similar to the 2016/17 survey (19.2%), but there was a decrease from 1996 (29.7%). There was no significant change compared with a decade ago (21.4% in 2007/08 CSEW).
- Around 1 in 23 (4.3%) adults aged 16 to 59 had taken a drug in the last month, while around 1 in 11 (9.5%) young adults aged 16 to 24 had done so. There was no significant change compared with the 2016/17 survey. However, both have decreased compared with a decade ago, where 5.4 per cent of 16 to 59 year olds reported taking a drug in the last month and 12.5 per cent of 16 to 24 year olds had done so.
- Around one-third (34.6%) of adults aged 16 to 59 had taken drugs at some point during their lifetime. There has been a decrease in levels of lifetime use estimated by the 2017/18 survey compared with a decade ago (36.0% in the 2007/08 CSEW), but this remains higher than the 1996 survey (30.4%).
- Around 1 in 29 (3.5%) of adults aged 16 to 59 had taken a Class A drug in the last year, equivalent to around 1.1 million people. This has increased compared with the previous year and a decade ago (2007/08; both 3.0%). Among young adults aged 16 to 24, 8.4 per cent had taken a Class A drug in the last year. This has increased compared with the 2007/08 CSEW (6.8%), but there was no significant change compared with the 2016/17 survey (7.0%).
- Class A drug use among 16 to 24 year olds has been increasing since 2011/12: While not statistically significant from year to year, there is an upward trend apparent in the use of Class A drugs, particularly among 16 to 24 year olds. Although there was no significant change from the 2016/17 estimate among this age group, there was an increase from the 2011/12 estimate (6.2% to 8.4%). This is mainly driven by an increase in powder cocaine and ecstasy use.