Is Disinvestment From Alcohol and Drug Treatment Services Associated With Treatment Access, Completions and Related Harm? An Analysis of English Expenditure and Outcomes Data
The positive impact of substance use treatment is well-evidenced but there has been substantial disinvestment from publicly funded treatment services in England since 2013/2014. This paper examines whether this disinvestment from adult alcohol and drug treatment provision was associated with changes in treatment and health outcomes, including: treatment access, successful completions from treatment, alcohol-specific hospital admissions, alcohol-specific mortality and drug-related deaths.
Annual administrative data from 2013/2014 to 2018/2019 was matched at local government level and multi-level time series analysis using linear mixed-effect modelling conducted for 151 upper-tier local authorities in England.
Between 2013/2014 and 2018/2019, £212.2 million was disinvested from alcohol and drug treatment services, representing a 27% decrease. Concurrently, 11% fewer people accessed, and 21% fewer successfully completed, treatment. On average, controlling for other potential explanatory factors, a £10 000 disinvestment from alcohol and drug treatment services was associated with reductions in all treatment outcomes, including 0.3 fewer adults in treatment (95% confidence interval 0.16–0.45) and 0.21 fewer adults successfully completing treatment (95% % confidence interval 0.12–0.29). A £10 000 disinvestment from alcohol treatment was not significantly associated with changes in alcohol-specific hospital admissions or mortality, nor was disinvestment from drug treatment associated with the rate of drug-related deaths.
Discussion and Conclusions
Local authority spending cuts to alcohol and drug treatment services in England were associated with fewer people accessing and successfully completing alcohol and drug treatment but were not associated with changes in related hospital admissions and deaths.