Youth drug use has risen by 50% since end of pandemic measures – survey

The research also suggests more young people are forming addictions, with those taking substances as a habit nearly trebling.

Man holding a bag of cocaine or white powder
Man holding a bag of cocaine or white powder

Use of drugs by young people has increased by 50% since Covid-19 restrictions ended, according to new data.

Charity The Mix has published research showing a third of the 2,000 people aged between 16 and 25 who it surveyed – or equivalent to an estimated 2.6 million people across the UK – used an illegal drug in the past year.

This marked a 50% rise compared to the 22% recorded in 2021.

Some 11% of young people had used a Class A drug within the previous year when asked in 2021, but this had increased to 17% – or equivalent to 1.3 million people – in the latest survey.

The frequency of drug use has also increased from 16% once a week in 2021 to 23% in 2022.

The Mix’s research suggests more young people are forming addictions, with those taking substances as a habit nearly trebling from 5% in 2021 to 14% in 2022.

The charity’s deputy chief executive Zoe Bailie 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 urgently need to break the stigma attached to substance use to ensure no young person is afraid to reach out for help due to concerns about how they will be judged.

“We also 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.”

It comes after official figures showed drug-related deaths in England and Wales have reached a record high, driven primarily by opiates.

There were 4,859 deaths related to drug poisoning registered in 2021 – a rate of 84.4 deaths per million people, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said in early August.

It was the ninth consecutive annual rise, up 6.2% from the previous year, and the highest number since records began more than a quarter of a century ago in 1993.

The ONS said the overall rising trend over the past decade has been driven primarily by deaths involving opiates, but also those involving other substances such as cocaine.

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