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One fifth of young adults reported taking illicit drugs last year

December 02, 2014: Today's report published by the Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC) shows one in five 16-24 year olds in England and Wales (18.9 per cent) reported they had taken illicit drugs in 2013-14, an increase on 2012-13 (16.2 per cent).(2)

*HSCIC must be quoted as the source of these figures

*Regional figures are available within the report 

The new report shows one in 11 adults (8.8 per cent) aged 16 to 59 years reported they took illicit drugs in 2013-14 which is slightly higher than the previous year (8.1 per cent).

The Statistics on Drug Misuse, England 2014 report shows there were 7,100 hospital admissions with a primary diagnosis of a drug-related mental health and behavioural disorder; this is an 8.5 per cent rise on last year (6,550). One third of admissions were for 25 to 34 year olds (32.5 per cent or 2,310).3

The report provides a summary of previously published statistics4 covering prevalence, trends, patterns and health outcomes related to drug misuse as well as new 2013-14 information on hospital admissions.

Today's figures for 2013-14 also show5:

  • There was a 13.7 per cent increase in admissions with a primary diagnosis of poisoning by illicit drugs in England (13,920) on 2012-13 (12,240) and a 76.7 per cent increase on ten years ago (7,880).6
  • Almost twice as many people living in the most deprived areas (4.5 per cent) reported being frequent drug users compared to those in the least deprived areas (2.3 per cent).7
  • One in 13 (7.6 per cent) young adults reported they had taken nitrous oxide in the last year.8
  • Men were more than twice as likely as women to have reported taking illicit drugs in the last year (11.8 per cent and 5.8 per cent respectively), and this has been a consistent trend over the last ten years.
  • Cannabis was the most widely reported drug to be used among school pupils (7.0 per cent) and adults (6.6 per cent) in England.2
  • More than one third of adults (35.6 per cent) reported taking illicit drugs at some point during their life.

HSCIC Chair Kingsley Manning said: "Today's report gives insight into the misuse of drugs in society, and shines a light on the prevalence of drug use among different age groups.

"Reporting changes in rates of drug-related hospital admissions and misuse of drugs in adults provides valuable information for primary and secondary healthcare services, policy makers and drug rehabilitation professionals."

You can find the full report at  


Notes to editors

1. The Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC) was established on April 1 2013 as an Executive Non Departmental Public Body (ENDPB). It is England's trusted data source, delivering high quality information and IT systems to drive better patient services, care and outcomes. Its work includes publishing more than 220 statistical publications annually; providing a range of specialist data services; managing informatics projects and programmes and developing and assuring national systems against appropriate contractual, clinical safety and information standards.

2. Percentages are shown to one decimal place. Figures over 1,000 have been rounded to the nearest 10. Percentages are based on a nationally representative sample of school pupils and adults that took part in the surveys and not total number of adults and school pupils in the population.

3. The data on hospital admissions are based on Hospital Episode Statistics (HES) which provide a breadth of information to a detailed level about NHS-commissioned hospital activity for inpatients in the reporting period April 2013 to March 2014. These are provisional figures as final figures for 2013-14 are not yet available.

HES figures are available from 1989-90 onwards. The quality and coverage of the data have improved over time. These improvements in information submitted by the NHS have been particularly marked in the earlier years and need to be borne in mind when analysing time series. Some of the increases in figures for later years (particularly 2006-07 onwards) may be due to improvement in the coverage of independent sector activity. Changes in NHS practice also need to be borne in mind when analysing time series. This may be particularly relevant for admissions with a primary or secondary diagnosis where some of the increases may be attributable to changes in recording practice.

4. Previously published data in the report are based on the following sources: Adult Psychiatric Morbidity in England, 2007: results of a household survey, Deaths related to drug poisoning in England and Wales, Drug Misuse: Findings from the Crime Survey for England and Wales, European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) Annual report on the state of the drugs problem in Europe, European School Survey Project on Alcohol and Other Drugs (ESPAD) report:  Substance use among students in 36 European countries, National Drug Treatment Monitoring System, National Programme on Substance Abuse Deaths, National and Regional Estimates of the Prevalence of Opiate and/or Crack Cocaine, Scottish Crime and Justice Survey - Drug Use, Smoking, Drinking and Drug Use among Young People in England, and Substance misuse among young people report.

5. The figures in the following key points are for England and Wales unless specified elsewhere.

6. On April 1st 2012 there was an amendment to one of the ICD-10 codes used for analysis where there is a primary diagnosis of poisoning by illicit drugs. Code T404 'poisoning by synthetic narcotics not classified as other codes' code was reclassified to include the drug Tramadol. This code has been removed from the list of ICD-10 codes used for this analysis from that date which This means that figures from 2012-13 onwards will not be directly comparable with figures in previous years. To gauge the impact of this change removing this code from analysis in 2011-12 would have meant a reduction in admissions of 2.3 per cent.

7. Frequent drug use is defined as taking any illicit drug more than once a month on average in the last year, among adults aged 16 to 59 and among young adults aged 16 to 24 as measured by the 2013 to 2014 Crime Survey for England and Wales (CSEW).

8. A base size of about 2,700 people is used each year. In 2012-13 6.1 per cent of adults reported taking illicit drugs but this is not a statistically significant difference from the results for 2013-14. For the purpose of this comparison, a statistically significant difference would be one where we are 95 per cent confident the difference is real and not just due to the fact that the survey is based on a sample and does not therefore capture the true population prevalence.

9. For media enquires please contact or telephone 0300 30 33 888.

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