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Substance abuse and addiction services decline with lack of funding

Alcohol dependency services are at a crisis point and which is “undoubtedly” a result of a lack of funding from central government, a new survey has warned. 

In a report from Alcohol Research UK and Alcohol Concern, the survey, which received 154 completed responses from medical professionals and service users, found that only 12 per cent of those surveyed felt that substance abuse services in their area were sufficient in providing care for alcohol addiction.

A major reason for the decline in quality of these services was a shortfall in funding: cuts in between 10% and 58% were reported by those who responded to the survey, with two medical professionals labelling it as an “assault on funding” with “phenomenal workloads.”

Public Health England estimates that around 595,000 people in England alone are in need of specialist alcohol treatment. Around 200,000 children live in a household with a dependent carer. Yet in 2016-7, only 80,454 people received treatment for alcohol dependencies.

With 80% of alcohol dependent people currently not in touch with rehabilitation services, the problem is much greater than it first appears. More importantly, because 59% of respondents feel that aspects of the services in their area had worsened in the last three years, the report claims that help services “cannot survive” the demand for services at their current level of funding.

The report said: “The challenges facing alcohol treatment services are numerous and, in many cases, acute. They are, undoubtedly, a consequence of funding cuts which have gone beyond what a functioning system can sustain if the goal is the meaningful reduction of harm to individuals, families and communities.

“Alcohol services cannot survive at their current level of funding. Simply put they require more investment. Government-- both national and local— needs to recognise the vital role that alcohol treatment plays in addressing the tragic consequences dependency can have on individuals.”

In 2016 there were 7,327 deaths directly due to alcohol in England. And, despite there being a drop in the amount of adults in treatment for alcohol addiction since 2014, over the last forty years UK liver disease rates have increased by around 250%, during which time they have fallen across much of the developed world.

The report makes 14 recommendations on the course of action for the government to take, including the creation of a National Alcohol Strategy, better guidance to support solutions to problems around the relationship between alcohol misuse and mental health, and an independent review of the commissioning of alcohol services “to ensure it delivers the safes , most effective and best services.”


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