Substance misuse

Substance misuse

Key messages

The needs assessment for the young people’s drug treatment plan identified the following key messages:
  • young people who use drugs typically tend to start using between the ages of 13 and 15
  • alcohol and cannabis are the main substances used by young people in Northumberland
  • heroin misuse amongst young people is increasing
  • Northumberland needs to meet the accommodation needs of young people who misuse substances
  • resources need to be established to support young people’s and parent/carer’s engagement with designing services
  • we need to find a better way of supporting parent/carers of young people who have problems with their substance misuse
Tier two delivery is currently reduced for young people in terms of specific delivery form the ‘sorted’ substance misuse service, although, plans are in place to ensure substance misuse more embedded across the network of the youth offending, leaving care and ‘sorted’ services under a single service management structure.


Like many local authorities, Northumberland needs to review how it delivers its priorities in the face of reductions in public spending. This review is underway, and a clearer picture will be available by winter. Priorities that are proposed for young people are:
  • delivery of screening
  • identification and brief advice
  • supporting families and communities – the development of services in the community to support those individuals experiencing difficulties with alcohol
  • address the problem of transition between children and young people’s services to adult services
  • improved support and treatment for alcohol treatment requirements
  • ensure that all young people in Northumberland have access to information, advice, education, treatment and care with regard to alcohol misuse
  • reduce underage sales
  • develop identification and referral systems
  • improve support and treatment
  • address parental alcohol misuse
  • problem areas and localities
  • licensed premises
  • supporting victims
  • dealing effectively with offenders/perpetrators
Good education through schools is taking place through the drug education consultant delivering sessions upon request from schools, with a main focus on the effects of alcohol. Highlighting the need to link alcohol use to young people becoming involved in risk taking behaviours, schools link their drug education to other areas of the curriculum, particularly sex and relationships education (SRE).


There is a shortfall in meeting the accommodation needs of young people who leave custody and require support to address their substance misuse difficulties. Funding has been secured in 2009 to partially address this issue.

Commencement and ongoing review of the in-county pharmacological service for young people is a key priority to include further development of harm reduction and transitional arrangements.

Increasing access to services in the evening and during weekends is an identified gap in the provision for children and young people.

There is also a gap where there are opportunities for other professionals to provide brief interventions, for example, occupational therapists and physiotherapists.

Key documents

The use and misuse of drugs can have a huge impact on our local communities in terms of crime and disorder, and also the burden to health care systems. Tackling substance misuse is a key, cross cutting theme, within the refreshed commissioning strategy.

Tackling drugs, changing lives – national drug strategy 2008-2018 is a ten-year drug strategy and aims to restrict the supply of illegal drugs and reduce the demand for them. It focuses on protecting families and strengthening communities.

The national treatment agency (NTA) for substance misuse published a JSNA support pack for strategic partners, which sets out details of the investment in drug treatment in Northumberland and the benefits that this brings.

The Northumberland’s drug strategy 2006-2009 is under review.

Statistics can be found on the state of health web page.