Substance Misuse Strategy
Alcohol plays a role in British culture; it is often part of our social and family life. However, more needs to be done to promote safe and sensible drinking, as large sections of the population experience an unacceptable level of alcohol-related harm which has a negative impact on individuals, local families, and communities.
Regular drinking outside of recommended upper limits (14 units a week for men and women) risks a future burdened by illnesses (including cancer, liver disease, high blood pressure and heart disease), increases the risk of falls and fractures and impacts negatively on people's mental health and wellbeing. Excessive regular drinking can all too easily turn into dependence.
In 2019, Dame Carol Black was commissioned by the UK Government to carry out a review into drug use in the UK. Taking the health harms, costs of crime and wider impacts on society together, it is estimated that the total costs of drugs to society are over £19 billion, which is more than twice the value of the market itself.
We also know that an estimated 1 in 11 adults aged 16-59 years in England and Wales had taken a drug in the last year (2019-20), approximately 3.2 million people (ONS: Drug misuse in England and Wales 2020) . The harms caused by drug misuse are far reaching and affect our lives at every level. Harms include health issues, drug dependency, organised crime, violence and exploitation, and irreparable damage and loss to communities.
From Harm to Hope: 10 Year National Drug Strategy
The UK Government's new 10 year drug strategy: From Harm to Hope for England and Wales was published in December 2021 and outlines three main priorities for the next decade:
- Break drug supply chains
- Deliver a world-class treatment and recovery system
- Achieve a shift in demand for recreational drugs
The new strategy will combine greater investment in treatment programmes, both in the health service and the prison service, alongside a tougher crack down on drug supply.
Development of a local Combatting Drugs Partnership
As a response to the publication of the 10 year National Drug Strategy the national Combatting Drugs partnership team have issued local guidance which provides a framework for how local partners can work together to address the priorities above. This includes the formation of a new Cheshire West and Chester Combatting Drugs Partnership, which will replace the local Substance Misuse Partnership Board.
The impact of COVID-19
A survey commissioned by charity Alcohol Change UK in November 2020, showed that almost one in three drinkers (29 percent) had been drinking at increasing or high risk levels over the past six months (over 14 units per week). Over half of drinkers (53 percent) said they had drunk alcohol for a mental health reason – such as feeling anxious, stressed or worried, feeling bored, having trouble sleeping, or feeling sad or low - at least once in the past six months.
- Alcohol Change: Over half of UK drinkers have turned to alcohol for mental health reasons during pandemic
The COVID-19 pandemic has also had a huge impact on alcohol and drug misuse and has placed a strain on treatment services. Whilst treatment services have worked hard to continue to provide a service, the impact of the pandemic upon our population, including excessive drinking, particularly in the home, and concerns about drug misuse, particularly amongst more vulnerable groups, is stark.
We will ensure that this strategy and its action plans are closely linked to other strategies and plans that also impact upon drug and alcohol misuse, for example the Sexual Health Strategy, the Tobacco Control Strategy, and the Cheshire West Place Plan.