North Yorkshire unites to reduce alcohol and drug use harm

Partners across North Yorkshire are working together to cut harm caused by drugs and alcohol in their ongoing efforts to ensure many more people live longer and healthier lives.

A draft all-age North Yorkshire Substance Use Strategy consultation was launched on Friday enabling residents and professionals to have their say about the ongoing and planned work to reduce the harms associated with alcohol and drugs use.

National statistics reveal that the social and economic costs of alcohol-related harms amount to £21.5 billion annually. Harms from illicit drug use costs the nation an estimated £20 billion.

Officials say huge geographical and socioeconomic inequalities exist in terms of substance-related harms. For example, more people access specialist treatment services for support with opiates in the Scarborough and Selby areas, while more people access support for alcohol in Harrogate, the former Craven district and Northallerton.

North Yorkshire has seen higher rates of drug poisoning deaths in adults than nationally with official figures showing a 142 per cent increase from 19 in 2011 to 46 in 2021. Meanwhile, a fifth of adults in North Yorkshire drink more than 14 units of alcohol each week and it is estimated that more than 5,500 people are alcohol dependent and could benefit from specialist support.

The wide-reaching aim of the two-year strategy is to work alongside people who use substances, our communities, our businesses and our services to reduce harms associated with substance use across North Yorkshire.

The three main priorities set out in the strategy, which is being developed by the North Yorkshire Drug and Alcohol Partnership Board, are:

  • Prevention – We will ensure that people can avoid use of substances, including alcohol.
  • Harm reduction – We will reduce harms and deaths.
  • Recovery – We will support people to achieve their goals and live lives free from harmful patterns of substance use.

A number of actions have been identified for the council, police, probation service, health and voluntary services’ partners to achieve the three priorities, including supporting people to access the right help, and supporting children and young people to be able to make healthy choices regarding substances as a priority.

The partnership also sets out plans to tackle supply of illicit drugs and encourage retailers, businesses and licensed premises across the county to play their part in responsibly promoting, advertising and selling alcohol.

North Yorkshire Council’s executive member for health and adult services and chair of the  North Yorkshire Drug and Alcohol Partnership Board, Cllr Michael Harrison, said: “I welcome this strategy which sets out the work with our partners to reduce harms associated with alcohol and drug use.

“We understand that the harm associated with substance use affects individuals, families, communities and our economy. Alcohol and drug harms comes at a great cost. They can cause a range of long-term health issues and have a devastating effect on families. It also places huge demand on our services, which are already under significant pressure.

“It is therefore vital that we work together and take action on supply and sale, prevention and making sure help is available and accessible to people who need it. So please get involved and have your say on how we can work together and ensure many more people live longer, healthier lives.”

The council’s director of public health, Louise Wallace, added: “Through collaboration with our partners, we can continue to reduce drug and alcohol-related harm across the county and foster thriving and resilient communities.”

The 12-week consultation, which runs until April 30, includes a survey and a video showcasing the key themes of the strategy. It can be found at www.northyorks.gov.uk/SubstanceUseNY

An easy-read version of the survey and a survey specifically for young people aged 13-18 are also available online. Paper-based versions of the survey and strategy can be requested at North Yorkshire Council libraries.

Anyone requiring further information is asked to email nypublichealth@northyorks.gov.uk