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Cannabis: Rehabilitation

Volume 476: debated on Monday 2 June 2008

To ask the Secretary of State for Health (1) how many (a) males and (b) females sought medical help for cannabis addiction in each of the last three years, broken down by (i) age group and (ii) health authority area; (207137)

(2) what programmes for treating cannabis addiction his Department funds; what plans he has to revise the range of programmes funded; and if he will make a statement;

(3) what drugs are available on the NHS to treat cannabis addiction; which drugs were available in each of the last five years; when these drugs were last reviewed by his Department; how much was spent by his Department on these drugs in each of the last five years; and if he will make a statement.

Data on those being treated for cannabis misuse is not available in the format requested. The National Treatment Agency for Substance Misuse (NTA) publish information from the National Drug Treatment Monitoring System (NDTMS) on the numbers of people in structured drug treatment; however, this information is not broken down by sex or by health authority.

NDTMS data shows that in 2003-04 10,096 people received structured drug treatment for cannabis misuse and in 2004-05 13,408 people received structured drug treatment for cannabis misuse. The NTA will be publishing data for 2005-06 and 2006-07 this summer. Prior to 2003-04 the numbers of clients receiving drug treatment were based on estimates.

The majority of drug treatment services are not specific to any one type of drug, responding to the needs of the individual client regardless of the type of drug they are addicted to. As with current drug treatment services, the introduction of any new service or programme must be based on clinical evidence; this includes any new services or programmes to treat cannabis addiction.

It is the responsibility of drug action teams (DATs) to commission drug treatment services in their areas in line with local needs. DATs are local partnerships, combining representatives from local authorities, health, probation, prison service and the voluntary sector, and are responsible for delivering the Government's drug strategy at a local level. DATs have the best understanding of the local needs and priorities of their populations and ensure that the work of local agencies is brought together effectively and that cross-agency projects are co-ordinated successfully.

While figures for the proportion of clients in treatment whose primary drug of dependence is cannabis are not available the number of drug users receiving treatment have increased from 85,000 in 1998 to 195,000 in 2006-07 and the numbers of drug users remaining in treatment has also risen. Drug treatment services have had a real impact, positively benefiting both drug users and the wider community; drug related deaths have decreased and the level of crime associated with drug misuse has fallen substantially.

Since 2001-02, the Department of Health and the Home Office have provided specific resources for drug treatment in the form of the pooled drug treatment budget (PTB). This is allocated to the 149 DATs across the country to use alongside local mainstream funding, to provide treatment and services according to specific local needs. The level of Government investment for substance misuse treatment within the pooled treatment budget is £398 million for 2008-09, which is also the indicative figure for 2009-10 and 2010-11. The Department does not intend the funding made available through the PTB to represent the totality of funding for any area. Rather, it is designed to supplement mainstream funds and to encourage investment in improving treatment capacity and effectiveness.

The latest evidence-based approaches to treating problematic cannabis use, in both adults and young people, are outlined in the joint departmental and National Treatment Agency for Substance Misuse publication, Drug Misuse and Dependence: UK Guidelines on Clinical Management, published in September 2007, and the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence clinical guideline 51—Drug Misuse: Psychosodal Interventions. Treatment for cannabis addiction is expected to be in line with these guidelines.

There are no specific substitute medicines available for treatment of cannabis dependence, although medication may be used to treat various related symptoms. The Drug Misuse and Dependence: UK Guidelines on Clinical Management guideline states that

“clinicians should consider psychosocial interventions, especially brief motivational interventions in mild cases” while “more heavily dependent misusers may require structured treatment with keyworking”.