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Club drug users warned as new figures show more getting help

While overall drug use has declined in England, there has been an increase in those needing treatment for ‘club drugs’ such as ketamine and mephedrone in the last six years, the National Treatment Agency for Substance Misuse (NTA) revealed today as it releases a report containing the first ever treatment data on club drugs. Club drug users make up just 2% of adults in treatment and 10% of young people in specialist services.

Paul Hayes, NTA Chief Executive said:

“It is clear that some club drug users are developing serious health problems and even dependency. While drug use overall is falling, there is an increase in the number of people turning to treatment for club drugs. The numbers remain small compared to heroin and crack addiction, but services need to be geared up to meet these emerging needs."

“For those who do seek treatment, they stand a very good chance of overcoming their problems. Many have personal support and resources that put them in a good position to recover. We would encourage anyone who is developing a problem to seek help.”

The NTA warned that whilst the numbers needing help remain small compared to heroin and crack, the data showed that it was clear that use of club drugs, which many start as a lifestyle choice, can lead to significant health problems or a dependency. Experts interviewed for the report described how heavy use of ketamine for example can turn into dependency with physical effects such as bladder pain and damage.

The report, Club drugs: emerging trends and risks, reveals the numbers of adults and under 18s who have sought help for problems with substances such as ecstasy, ketamine, methamphetamine, GHB/ GBL and mephedrone. It reports that: 

  • Last year, 6,486 people (4,479 adults, 2,007 under-18s) were treated for a club drug – up from the 2005-06 figure of 4,656 (3,122 adults, 1,534 under-18s).
  • However this still represents just 2% of adults and 10% of young people in treatment.
  • Ecstasy remains the most commonly treated drug, although the number of new adults entering treatment halved, from around 2,000 in 2005-06 to just over 1,000 last year.
  • Mephedrone and ketamine are joining ecstasy as popular club drugs - ketamine presentations rose year on year between 2005-06 and 2010-11, from 114 adults to 845, falling back to 751 this year; 900 adults started treatment for mephedrone this year, compared to 839 in the previous year.
  • Club drug users do well when they seek treatment: last year 61% of adults who left treatment for club drug use did so having completed their programme successfully.

Typically club drug users stand a strong chance of benefitting from treatment as they tend to have the personal resources to recover from their problems. Treatment for club drugs problems involves techniques used by professionals for all stimulants, such as counselling, and in some cases detoxification. However the NTA said today that drug treatment services need to be geared up to meet changing needs as the range of club drug diversifies.

Psychiatrist Owen Bowden Jones who founded the Club Drug Clinic managed by Central and North west London NHS Foundation said: “This group of substances can result in harmful effects such as bladder damage and psychosis. However treatment can be very effective and we have seen some excellent results, with people overcoming a range of complicated physical and psychological problems.

“Whilst overall the drug treatment system has made tremendous gains in recent years, particularly in tackling heroin and crack, newer club drug use is a significant challenge and we are still learning the full extent of the resulting harms. It is important that investment in services is maintained so that appropriate support is available for those who need it.”


The National Treatment Agency for Substance Misuse (NTA) is a National Health Service (NHS) special health authority which aims to improve the availability, capacity and effectiveness of drug treatment in England.  We help people to overcome addiction and regain their lives. From April 2013, the NTA’s core functions will transfer to Public Health England, and the NTA will cease to exist as a separate organisation.

The NTA report ‘Club Drugs: Emerging Trends and Risks’ is available here or email miranda.askew@nta-nhs.org.uk The statistical release, tables and pre-release access list are available at (www.nta.nhs.uk/statistics.aspx)

For further information please contact the NTA press office on 020 7972 1921/ 1922 or out of hours call 07795 036460.

For anyone worried about drugs, FRANK provides a friendly, confidential and non-judgemental service to those wanting help, information or advice. FRANK is available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, and we would encourage media to provide a link to FRANK’s website with any coverage:  www.talktofrank.com

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