Irish Penal Reform Trust

UK: Specialist Drug and Alcohol Treatment for Young People - A Cost Benefit Analysis

24th February 2011

A report published by The Department for Education, under Frontier Economics, has been published outlining the cost effectiveness of treatment for young people who abuse alcohol and drugs. The estimated benefits from treatment are measured both in the short term and the long term. 

24,000 young people received treatment for alcohol and drug misuse in 2008/09 which amounted to £62.2 million in that year alone. These young people were mainly treated for alcohol or cannabis misuse, with 10% using Class A drugs. Many of them had also been involved in crime, were not engaged in any employment or education, and had experienced problems with housing. The report found that between 30-40% of young people who abuse alcohol and drugs will become either problematic drug or problematic alcohol users in later life. 

The report estimates that if the number of problematic substance users is reduced, then the benefits of treatment would far outweigh the costs of that treatment. 

In the short term benefits would include: 

  • that there would be a 55- 65% reduction in offending by young people. This could result in £59.3 million net annual savings.
  • and there would be a 40% drop in the estimated number of drug and alcohol related deaths and hospital admissions. This could result in a saving of £1.8 million every year for the NHS and other services.

The report also highlighted how a 10% reduction in the number of young people who are likely to become adult substance misusers in their lifetime would generate £48.8 million – £159.0 million net benefits. In addition to this, the report estimates that there would be an estimated benefit of between £4.66 - £8.38 for every £1 spent on drug and alcohol treatment for young people.

Read more:

  • Access the full report here.
  • Read an article from the Daily Mail on the report here.
  • IPRT's publication, The Case for Investment in Prevention and Early Intervention can be accessed here.

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