The UK Government announces “largest ever funding for drug addiction treatment”, but is it enough?

Short: Does the plan announced do enough to tackle addiction on a wider scale? What about other forms of addiction?

At the end of 2021, during the December updates, the Government announced the “largest ever increase in funding for drug treatment”. With the promised £780 million, the United Kingdom is supposed to make a completely new drug treatment system, rebuilt from the ashes of what is left after numerous budget cuts.

How the Government Limited Addiction Treatment Options in the Past

In 2018, the government cuts for publicly funded drug and alcohol services reached a total of £162 million. This is 18% less than what was originally received by these service providers in 2013. Due to the various limitations being instilled on those who offer government-funded addiction treatment services in the UK, figures from Public Health England (PHE) show that since 2013-2014, there is a 7% fall in the number of citizens accessing treatment. This is when local authorities became responsible for providing medical help for those suffering from an alcohol or drug addiction.

According to data by BBC England Data Unit, out of all the local councils in England whose drug and alcohol treatment budgets were cut, 83% saw an increase in drug-related deaths. In addition, our government announced that this 10-year strategy will help with how illegal drugs cost the taxpayers up to £20 billion every year. According to the data which accompanied the new budget for drug and alcohol treatment, there are 300,000 heroin and cocaine addicts in England who commit almost half the robberies and burglaries in the territory.

The Year Funding Is Increased

According to the data released by the UK Government, the local authority in England will receive extra funding for combatting drug and alcohol misuse. The funding will be rationed throughout the next three years. There will be prioritisation of areas “in greatest need”. The increase in funding comes as a measure to “helping to reverse the upward trend in drug use”. However, comments on whether the trend was in any way affected by previous budget cuts are unavailable.

The new budget will bring the total spending on substance misuse enforcement and treatment to more than £3 billion over the next three years. The new spending will also be used for a completely new “world-leading” treatment system which will help recognise the areas which are in greatest need and focus resources on them.

The decision was supported by Health and Social Care Secretary, Sajid Javid, who said that treatment services are just a part of the comprehensive strategy whose focus is helping people back to work, into permanent housing and cracking down on both legal and illegal supply of addictive substances.

Is a Reactive Policy Enough to Battle Addiction?

Paul Spanjar of the Providence Projects Drug Rehab Centre in Dorset commented that “Throwing more money at trying to treat drug addiction without detailed measures and safeguards to prevent it, is a short-term fix for a much wider issue. In the Government’s `levelling up plan`, they should be looking at ways to tackle addiction early, by looking at high-risk individuals, setting up new projects to keep youngsters engaged and focused on positive outcomes, and tackling poverty especially now that the cost of living will set to rise dramatically. While there is mention of `preventative measures`, those measures are ambiguous and do not go far enough in tackling the root causes of addiction.”

Apart from only receiving a re-active strategy which doesn’t seem to focus on prevention or spreading information, removing the stigma of addiction or bringing a more versatile treatment to those in need, the new strategy also doesn’t seem to discuss the effects of behavioural (also known as a process) addictions on our communities. These would include addiction to gambling, fitness, shopping, social media, gaming disorders and more.

Instead, the new system will spend £300 million out of the promised £780 million for “cracking down on supply chains and criminal gangs profiting from the trade in illegal drugs”. £15 million will be spent on drug tests to be used during arrests in England and Wales, while £5 million will be spent on research and scientific studies on people’s attitudes towards drug use. £9 million will be for Tough Consequences, relating to court rulings on drug-related charges and trials.

This leaves £451 million, or just under 58% of the promised budget for actual drug and alcohol drug treatment providers. People who cannot pay for private addiction help will still be unable to benefit from 42% of the funding announced in December 2021.


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