UK: Drug users cost families £1.8 billion a year

The UK Drug Policy Commission, an independent body providing objective analysis of UK drug policy, has just published a press release informing about the hidden cost of Britain's drug problem to the families of users.

According to the UKPDC's study, at least 1.5 million UK people, caring for relatives with drug problems, are bearing a huge hidden burden valued at at least £1.8 billion pounds a year.

That works out as a cost of about £9,741 a year per drug user; the figure is estimated based on money spent on rent, food, healthcare, and even drugs - sometimes money stolen by the users - and the paying off of debts and funding of detox programmes by the users' families.

Days off work to help a drug using relative also add to the figure as well as days off and sick leave because of the impact on the families' own health.

As UKDPC Commissioner, Alan Maynard, Professor of Health Economics at the University of York and Specialist Adviser to the House of Commons Select Committee on Health - who oversaw the year long study - said: “Because of the stigma associated with drug dependency and addiction the true impact on families is hidden. This shame and distress associated with relatives’ drug use exacerbates the family’s stressful experience and can also hinder the useful contribution that families make to the recovery of the drug user.'

The study of course cannot take into account the emotional and long-term psychological effects on families which means that the costs could be far higher.

According to the study, the support that families and partners provide to drug users save the NHS about £750 million annually.

Roger Howard, Chief Executive of the UKDPC said: "Drug dependency places an intolerable strain on families as well on our health and social care system and those pressures will only soar unless we get the right services in place for these families in their own right. Our research shows families’ provide a bedrock of support, and that investment in them is likely to save the state – including the NHS and criminal justice system - money in the longer run.”