Skip to main content

A new Welsh Government report reveals good progress has been made in tackling substance misuse in Wales – but more still needs to be done.

First published:
20 December 2016
Last updated:

This was published under the 2016 to 2021 administration of the Welsh Government

The Substance Misuse Annual Report and Forward Look shows that 71.0% of people completed their treatment either problematic substance free or having reached their treatment goals in 2015/16, compared to 62.1% in 2011/12.

It also reveals that hospital admissions for alcohol specific conditions involving people under 25 have fallen by 32.4% over the last five years.

Other notable results include:

  • 74.5% of people in receipt of treatment reported a reduction in their substance misuse in 2015/16, compared to 68.4% in 2011/12.

  • 65.9% of people in receipt of treatment reported improved quality of life in 2015/16 compared to 57.8% in 2011/12.

  • Hospital admissions related to opioids involving people under 25 have fallen by 23.1% over the last five years.
  • 83.0% of people needing substance misuse treatment accessed services within 20 working days of referral in 2015/16– exceeding the target of 80%.
The Welsh Government recently launched its new Substance Misuse Delivery Plan which outlines actions that will aim to improve these figures further. A key project is a new Out of Work Programme, which provides peer support to people who are recovering from substance misuse and/or mental health issues as they embark on training and into employment. 

The report also shows that deaths from drug misuse rose from 113 in 2014 to 168 in 2015, following falls in previous years. Early indications are that the increase appears to be driven by an ageing cohort of heroin users with complex health needs.   
The Welsh Government will continue to work with partners on a range of initiatives to build on the good work already achieved and to tackle drug related deaths. These actions include:
  • Holding a national symposium in January, in collaboration with Sport Wales, to further raise awareness of the problem of Image and Performance Enhancing Drugs (IPEDs).

  • Providing a three month campaign to ensure the carers of those at risk of overdose are aware of risks and understand signs and symptoms, so that they can respond appropriately.

  • Continuing to develop the Take Home Naloxone Programme to incorporate police custody suites and A&E departments and launching a naloxone/harm reduction website.

  • Considering next steps on minimum unit pricing of alcohol to tackle the health harms associated with cheap, high strength alcohol.
Minister for Social Services and Public Health Rebecca Evans said:

“Substance misuse can have a devastating impact on individuals and their families, which is why in Wales we are committed to reducing the harms associated with substance misuse. We invest £50 million each year in tackling the issue.

“We have made good progress over the past five years. More people have completed their treatment substance free, or having met their treatment goals. I am also particularly pleased at the improvements seen among young people, with fewer hospital admissions for alcohol and opioids.

“However, we know there is more work to do. Our main priority over the coming year will be to take action to return to a position where drug related deaths are falling in Wales. We will be working closely with partners to evaluate the reasons behind the increase and to take action to address it.”