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Drug Misuse

Key findings (latest Drug Misuse JSNA chapter published May 2019)

  • Estimating the prevalence of illicit drug use is difficult due to the hidden nature of the problem, and reliable estimates are scarce

  • National estimates suggest higher rates of people using opiates and/or crack cocaine in Wirral compared to the North West and England. Local intelligence suggests Wirral prevalence is lower

  • Wirral has an ageing opiate and/or crack cocaine users (OCU) population in contact with treatment services (the 35-64 age-group). This differs to the national picture, where the highest rates of treatment for OCU are 25-34 year-olds

  • Rates of opiate and/or crack cocaine use have historically been higher in males than females (also the case for the North-West and England and is a long-term trend)

  • Wirral was a lower prescriber of strong opiates and Gaba-ergic drugs and a higher than average prescriber of benzodiazepines and Z-drugs, compared to similar Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs). Prescribing rates were higher in Wirral than England in 2017/18 for these four classes of prescribed drugs

  • The number of people accessing drug treatment in Wirral in 2017/18 was 2,412. The most common drug group clients sought assistance with was opiates (51% of all clients in Wirral)

  • Of the four localities in Wirral, Birkenhead had the largest number (1,572) and rate (23.8 per 1,000) of clients in treatment (Wallasey was next highest)

  • Wirral substance misuse service clients appear to have a much greater need for mental health treatment services at presentation than in England overall (61% locally versus 41% nationally)

  • There are more referrals to treatment for alcohol issues, but the largest group in treatment are opiate users (due to opiate users remaining in treatment for longer)

  • In 2017/18, GPs in Wirral were most likely to refer patients for alcohol issues and least likely to refer clients for opiate issues. A higher proportion of treatment referrals come from GPs in Wirral than is seen nationally (18% compared to 10% nationally)

  • The proportion of re-presentations for treatment (within 6 months) was higher in Wirral compared to England in three of the four drug groups; only non-opiate drug clients had re-presentation rates lower than England. Wirral had a much higher rate of planned exits from treatment than England overall in 2017/18

  • The most common reason for young people to be referred to Response by A&E was not drugs (it was alcohol), but MDMA/Ecstasy was the most common drug reason for referral

  • Groups most likely to be admitted to hospital with a drug-related condition in Wirral were men, those aged 45-54, and people living in the most deprived areas of Wirral

  • Groups most likely to die from a drug-misuse death in Wirral were men, those aged 35-49 and those living in the most deprived areas of Wirral

  • A high proportion (84%) of people who died while in contact with drug treatment services (2015-17) were aged under 60, while in Wirral overall, only 10% of the population die before the age of 60. While only around one quarter of these were directly linked to drug misuse by the coroner, these figures reflect the range of health harms caused by drug misuse

  • The largest proportion of Wirral Drug-Related deaths examined by the Coroner in 2017/18 were eventually ruled as suicide or misadventure (25%)

  • Drug misuse deaths have been increasing in Wirral, North West and England (with some fluctuation) since 2001. Wirral has seen higher rates of drug misuse deaths than England for the past 4-time periods (2012-14 to 2015-17) and the rate was significantly higher than the England average for the past 2 time periods (2014-16 and 2015-17)

Latest Drugs Misuse section


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Other supporting data

  • JSNA Support Packs for Drugs (Adult) (October 2018)
  • JSNA Support Packs for Young People’s substance misuse (October 2018)

  • JSNA Support Packs for Alcohol (October 2018)


Other related content

Healthier Lives: Alcohol & Drugs Profile for Wirral (March 2015)  
Alcohol and drug misuse are widespread throughout our society, and while the number of people with serious problems is relatively small, there is evidence that the impact on people’s lives is increasing. 
This online tool provides key data and information to understand the issues at a local authority level.

Integrated Monitoring System: Annual Report Cheshire and Merseyside (2013/14)
(Produced by Centre for Public Health at Liverpool John Moores University)
This publication is the first report for the IMS (Integrated Monitoring System), which includes information previously reported in the “Alcohol Treatment in Cheshire and Merseyside” and IAD (Inter-­-Agency Database) NSP (Needle and Syringe Programme) reports, alongside information on drug and alcohol use in the region.

Drug and Alcohol related Deaths in Wirral: A report for Wirral Public Health Team by Centre for Public Health at Liverpool John Moores University (2013).
This report by Centre for Public Health at Liverpool John Moores University (2013) Drug and Alcohol - Related Deaths in Wirral: Action Plan Development has highlighted a number of issues that local partners will be considering in their future work to minimise the impacts of drug and alcohol misuse.

Childhood adversity, substance misuse and young people’s mental health (2017)
Addaction (with other members of the Young People’s Health Partnership, a consortium of organisations working with the Department of Health, Public Health England and NHS England) has produced a
 briefing (PDF) about young people’s substance misuse and how local services and commissioners can respond to this issue

Summary of findings:

  • Statistics show reductions in young people’s substance misuse overall

  • There remain concerning statistics relating to vulnerable groups of young people and substance misuse that need to be addressed by targeting services in the right way

  • Substance misuse service provision for young people should include a range of early interventions and programmes

  • Substance misuse cannot be addressed in isolation from the wider issues affecting young people including sexual health, mental health and wellbeing, education and family issues

  • Peer to peer activities should be recognised as an effective way of delivering early intervention drug and alcohol messages to young people

  • Young people must be involved in all stages of intervention design, delivery and improvement

  • Commissioners must consider how to monitor the impact of early intervention substance misuse work to understand short, medium and long term impact


Key information sources for you to consider: