Drug use among young people up 75% since 2021, charity finds

Drug use among young people up 75% since 2021, charity finds

Around 1 in 3 young people have taken an illegal drug in the past 12 months, which equates to around 2.6m people, according to a national youth charity.

A report titled ‘A post-pandemic spike in substance use amongst young people & barriers to accessing support’, published by The Mix, finds that drug use has risen dramatically among 16 to 25-year-olds, up 75% compared to 2021.

The charity surveyed 2,000 young people to gain a better understand of the prevalence of alcohol, vaping, tobacco/cigarettes, and drugs.

Out of the 2,000 participants, 1 in 5 admitted taking drugs or using alcohol to escape problems in their lives, with a growing number now in need of support for substance misuse issues.

Zoe Bailie, deputy chief executive of The Mix, said: “The spike we have seen in the number of young people facing challenges with substance use in the past year is extremely worrying, and we believe it’s also preventable.”

“We need to do more to highlight the support that is available, ensuring that it’s accessible before a young person becomes dependent on drugs as a way to cope with life’s problems.”

A dramatic increase

To ensure the most accurate responses, the charity asked young people to think about their substance use in the 30 days prior to the survey, as well as the 12 months prior, and at any point at least a year before.

The most significant finding was the dramatic increase in drug taking (75%) compared to 2021.

The report also found that:  

  • 17% of 16 to 25-year-olds (13m people) have taken a class A drug in the past 12 months – an 11% increase compared to 2021
  • 23% of young people are using drugs at least once a week (up 7% since 2021)
  • 1 in 3 intended to use drugs in the next 12 months
  • The number of young people habitually using drugs – a strong indicator of addiction – almost trebled from 5% in 2021 to 14% in 2022
  • Alcohol consumption was higher among females, with 57% having consumed alcohol in the 30 days prior to the survey, compared to 45% of males

The survey asked about a broad range of substances used including alcohol, cocaine, ecstasy/MDMA, cannabis, heroin, ketamine, and amphetamines

Based on usage in the 12 months prior, cannabis was found to be the most commonly-used drug among 16 to 25-year-olds, followed by cocaine, and ketamine.

How to spot the signs of substance misuse

As a leading UK drug and alcohol testing laboratory, we understand all too well the impact that substance misuse can have on people’s day-to-day lives.

The report from The Mix highlights an urgent need for increased awareness surrounding the support available to young people.

However, it is also important that loved ones are able to spot the signs of substance misuse. This can help ensure harmful habits are spotted early, and that a young person can get access to vital support services when they need them most.  

Here are a few signs you can look out for if you suspect a young person of misusing drugs or alcohol:

  • Altered behaviour, such as an increased need for privacy
  • Changes in physical appearance, such as a lack of interest in grooming and personal hygiene
  • Difficulties in education (school, college, university), declining performance, disinterest
  • Lack of energy
  • Defensiveness when asked about substance use
  • Changes in appetite
  • Sudden weight gain or loss
  • Spending more money than usual or asking to borrow more money

Drug and alcohol testing you can trust

With over 15 years’ experience providing drug and alcohol testing services for members of the public, the legal sector, and the workplace sector, we are well placed to support you with your testing needs.  

Our laboratory can analyse a variety of samples for the presence of drugs and their metabolites, including urine, oral fluid (saliva), hair and nails. 

We also provide alcohol testing using breath, blood, hair and nail samples, and alcohol monitoring technology including the SCRAM CAM® ankle monitor.

Here are just a few examples of who might need a drug or alcohol test:

  • Concerned parents who want to find out if their child is misusing substances, in order to seek support
  • Legal professionals and social workers overseeing child protection cases
  • Businesses looking to introduce a substance misuse policy, or update their existing policy regarding testing requirements
  • Members of the public who require a test for official matters, such as an industrial tribunal, or private contractors who need a drug or alcohol test before starting work
  • Private individuals who require a test for legal matters such as divorce proceedings or custody disputes

For more information and guidance on which test is best for you, contact our friendly and discreet Customer Services team on 0333 600 1300 or email info@alphabiolabs.com.

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