‘Different approach’ to drug use needed as drug crime in England and Wales rises 8% during lockdown

While crimes like robbery and theft fell during lockdown, figures show that drug-related crime rose by 8%.
Drug use rose 8% during the third lockdown.Drug use rose 8% during the third lockdown.
Drug use rose 8% during the third lockdown.

A leading health charity has called for a “different approach” to personal use of drugs as figures reveal that drug-related crime rose 8% in England and Wales during the January lockdown.

Wellbeing charity Turning Point said they saw a 25% increase in drug referrals in March 2021, calling for a “more holistic and health focused” approach to tackling drug use and addiction.

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At a glance: 5 key points

Figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) show an 8% rise in drug related crime in England and Wales between January and March 2021 when compared with the same period in 2020.

ONS figures show that 50,894 drug offences were recorded between January and March 2021 during lockdown, compared with 47,141 offences recorded between January and March 2020, pre-pandemic.

Addiction services have reported surges in demand for help during lockdowns as people with addiction issues struggled to access their usual face-to-face services.

Though drug-related crimes rose during lockdown, other types of crime - such as theft and robbery - fell dramatically thanks to people staying at home for extended periods of time.

Criminals, however, took advantage of increased time at home and internet use through fraud - which surged 28% between January and March 2021 when compared with the same period in the year before.

What’s been said

Nat Travis, National Head of Substance Misuse Services at Turning Point said: "People who are caught in possession of illegal substances may or may not need treatment but getting involved in the criminal justice system can be hugely damaging to an individual's wellbeing and future life chances without any real benefit to wider society.

"This year the government has invested significant additional money into drug treatment services to target drug-related crime.

“With this funding we will be supporting prisoners who have a drug problem to access treatment straight away on release; providing drug education sessions as an alternative to a court appearance for a possession charge; and strengthening our work to reduce the harm caused by drug use, including drug related deaths and supporting sex workers and people who are homeless.

"This investment is very much in line with the recommendations set out in Dame Carol Black's recent review of drug treatment services which called for a more holistic and health focussed approach to problematic drug use."

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Anecdotal evidence suggests that people with drug and alcohol addictions struggled to cope during periods of lockdown without the usual distractions of everyday life.

Lockdown also put a huge strain on addiction services, with many forced to go virtual or adapt to smaller groups of people, creating a knock-on effect for service users.

Those without reliable internet access have been particularly disadvantaged.

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