Drug dependency in adults
Last updated 14 May 2019 - see all updates
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1. Main facts and figures
Black people aged 16 years and over were more likely than other ethnic groups to have a drug dependency in the year prior to the survey
Black adult males were more likely than males from other ethnic groups to have a drug dependency in the year prior to the survey
no other meaningful differences between other ethnic groups or between sexes were observed in terms of drug dependency (other observed differences aren’t reliable, most likely because of the small sample sizes involved)
The ethnic categories used in this data
For this data, the number of people surveyed (the ‘sample size’) was too small to draw any firm conclusions about specific ethnic categories. Therefore, the data is broken down into the following broad groups, based on the ONS harmonised ethnic group questions for use on national surveys.
- Asian/Asian British
- Black/Black British
- Mixed/Multiple and Other
- White British
- White Other
2. By ethnicity and sex
Summary of Drug dependency in adults By ethnicity and sex Summary
Questions about drug use were asked using a computer-assisted self-completion interview (CASI), as in the 2000 and 2007 surveys. They covered people's lifetime experience of 15 types of named drug, together with use in the past year. The drugs asked about are those considered to be mostly widely used. New psychoactive substances (NPS) were not included.
Each survey involved interviewing a large stratified probability sample of the general population, covering people living in private households. The full adult age range was covered, with the youngest participants aged 16 and the oldest over 100.
The two-phase survey design involved an initial interview with the whole sample, followed up with a structured assessment carried out by clinically trained interviewers with a subset of participants. People were assessed or screened for a range of different types of mental disorder, from common conditions like depression and anxiety disorder through to less common neurological and mental conditions such as psychotic disorder, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and autism spectrum disorder (ASD).
The use of a survey to assess mental health conditions is not as reliable as a diagnosis made using a clinical interview. The assessments used have been validated, however, and are among the best available.
The resulting statistics for drug dependency have been age-standardised. This is because drug dependency can be related to age and the age profile can differ considerably between ethnic groups. This adjustment allows comparisons to be made between ethnic groups as if they had the same age profile.
The survey covers people who live in private households. It doesn’t include those who live in institutional settings (such as hospitals or prisons) or in temporary housing (such as hostels or bed and breakfasts) or those who sleep rough. People living in such settings are likely to have higher drug use than those living in private households.
Where a selected participant could not take part in a long interview due to a physical or mental health condition, some information about this was recorded by the interviewer on the doorstep. This information may be biased due to it having been collected from another household member.
Socially undesirable or stigmatised feelings and behaviours may be underreported. While this is a risk for any study based on self-report data, the study goes some way to minimising this by collecting particularly sensitive information in a self-completion format.
Some people selected for the survey could not be contacted or refused to take part. The achieved response rate (57%) is in line with that of similar surveys (Barnes et al. 2010; cited in APMS 2014). Weighting helps take account of those who were selected for the survey but didn’t take part.
Weighting is used to adjust the results of a survey to make them representative of the population and improve their accuracy. For example, a survey which contains 25% women and 75% men will not accurately reflect the views of the general population which we know is around 50% men and 50% women.
More detailed information on the weighting used here can be found on page 24 of the Methods chapter of the Adult Psychiatric Morbidity Survey 2014 (PDF).
The confidence intervals for each ethnic group are available in the ‘download the data’ section.
3% of White British people surveyed experienced any drug dependency in the 12 months prior to the survey. This is a reliable estimate of the percentage of White British people in England who experienced any drug dependency in that time period. Because the APMS results are based on a random sample of people aged 16 or older, however, it’s impossible to be 100% certain of the true percentage.
It’s 95% certain, however, that somewhere between 2.4% and 3.6% of all White British people in England experienced a drug dependency in that time period. In statistical terms, this is a 95% confidence interval. This means that if 100 random samples were taken, then 95 times out of 100 the estimate would fall between the lower and upper bounds of the confidence interval. But 5 times out of 100 it would fall outside this range.
The smaller the survey sample, the more uncertain the estimate and the wider the confidence interval. For example, fewer people from the Black/Black British ethnic group were sampled for this survey than White British people, so we can be less certain about the estimate for the smaller group. This greater uncertainty is expressed by the wider confidence interval of between 4.4% and 12.6%.
Suppression rules and disclosure control
There is no risk to disclosure as the analysis is based on broad ethnic groups, without further disaggregation. Therefore no data has been suppressed.
Percentages have been rounded to 1 decimal point
Further technical information
4. Data sources
Type of data
Type of statistic
Every 7 years (further publications dependent on further surveys being commissioned)
Purpose of data source
The Adult Psychiatric Morbidity Survey provides data on the prevalence of treated and untreated psychiatric disorders in English adults aged 16 and over.
5. Download the data
This file contains the following: ethnicity, year, geography, sex, value, drug type, confidence intervals, and sample size