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Home > Specialist drug and alcohol services for young people – a cost benefit analysis.

Frontier Economics. (2011) Specialist drug and alcohol services for young people – a cost benefit analysis. London: Department for Education. Research Report DFE-RR087.

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This report looks at the costs and benefits associated with young people’s drug and alcohol treatment in the United Kingdom.

There were approximately 24,000 young people who received specialist drug and alcohol treatment in the UK in 2008-09. This is defined as “a care planned medical, psychosocial or specialist harm reduction intervention”. As set out in the Drug Strategy 2010 such treatment is aimed at preventing escalation of use or harm and should “respond incrementally to the risks in terms of drug use, vulnerability and, particularly, age.” Most of these young people were treated primarily for alcohol (37%) or cannabis (53%) misuse, with the remaining 10% misusing Class A drugs, including heroin and crack. Apart from using drugs and alcohol, these young people had experienced a range of other problems, including involvement in crime (shoplifting, theft, assault); being NEET (not in education, employment or training); or housing problems.

The National Treatment Agency (NTA) has oversight of young people’s specialist substance misuse services and systematically collects information on those young people accessing them. This information includes data on young people’s characteristics and, for most 16 and 17 year olds, a range of outcomes comparing treatment start and exit (such as crime, health, housing and education). We have drawn upon this data and the evidence from a range of academic studies and policy reports to assess the cost-effectiveness of young people’s specialist drug and alcohol treatment in the UK.

Throughout the report the term ‘young people’ is taken to refer to those aged under 18 unless stated otherwise. However, as noted much of the evidence base from the UK and abroad applies to those aged 16 or 17. The impact of this is discussed in the methodology section.


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