What help is available for drug and alcohol problems in Manchester?

For more information, or to speak to a member of our team, call now.
Call us: 0330 111 2015
For more information, or to speak to a member of our team, call now.
Call us: 0330 111 2015

Manchester and the wider community of Greater Manchester have some of the most severe problems with drugs and alcohol in all of England.

Due to the depth of the problem, greater emphasis has been put on increasing the amount of help available via the NHS and other statutory services.

There is still a long way to go to ensure everyone can access the help they need when they need it, both in Manchester and nationally.

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The scale of Manchester’s drug and alcohol problem

It is estimated 799 years of life were lost per 100,000 population in Manchester, in 2018, due to alcohol related conditions.

The number of dependent drinkers in Manchester was last estimated to be 2.35% of the population. That’s 70% higher than the national rate.**

In terms of drugs, the rate of hospital admissions in the city where drug related mental and behavioural disorders is a factor is almost double the national average (183%). In Wigan – part of Greater Manchester – it’s more than double the national average***.   

The number of deaths due to drugs in Manchester is 82% higher than the national average.****


Manchester has some of the worst rates of alcohol related harm in the country across all significant measures and the highest rate of alcohol related cancer in England.*

A recent national review into drug harms also named Manchester as one of the major hubs of county lines drugs supply gangs.

The city isn’t alone in facing challenges with drugs and alcohol. Nationally, there is a vast shortage of treatment and recovery resources.

Public Health England states:

“Alcohol misuse is the biggest risk factor for death, ill-health and disability among 15-49 year olds in the UK, and the fifth biggest risk factor across all ages.”

In all the key indicator areas for alcohol harm recorded in Public Health Profiles, Manchester sits within the worst quartile in the country.

Indicator Period Manchester Region England England
Recent Trend Count Value Value Value Worst Range Best
Admission episodes for alcohol-related conditions (Narrow) 2018/19 - 3,223 775 742 664 1,127 389
Admission episodes for alcohol-related conditions (Broad) 2018/19 - 12,372 3,507 2,736 2,367 4,022 1,329
Admission episodes for alcohol-specific conditions 2018/19 - 4,359 1,126 883 626 2,074 291
Admission episodes for alcohol-specific conditions - Under 18s 2016/17 -18/19 - 160 44.1 45.9 31.6 106.7 7.8
Alcohol-related mortality 2018 - 194 57.8 54.9 46.5 86.1 26.9
Alcohol-specific mortality 2016-18 - 164 14.9 14.7 10.8 29.8 4.8

Initiatives to help people with alcohol and drug issues in Manchester

A lot of work is going into trying to increase the support for people with drug and alcohol issues in Greater Manchester – and to reduce the number of people who develop those problems.

Some of that work is seen as trailblazing, it includes:


Housing First

Manchester is one of the cities trialling a new Housing First model to help homeless people into a home regardless of the challenges they face, including with addiction.

Campaign to raise awareness of Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD)

Greater Manchester Health and Social Care Partnership invested in what it described in its 2018/19 annual report as a ‘potentially world leading programme to reduce alcohol consumption in pregnancy’, with an ambition to ultimately prevent all new cases of foetal alcohol spectrum disorder in the area.

The campaign raised awareness of the potential harm to babies if mums-to-be drink during pregnancy and called for all women who may become or are pregnant to abstain from alcohol.

Leaflets and videos were produced as part of the campaign which called for every trimester to be a #drymester and aimed to raise awareness of Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD).

FASD can cause lifelong disability and:

  • low birth weight
  • a small head
  • distinctive facial features


Communities in Charge of Alcohol

An innovative Greater Manchester project, which was run with the Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH), Communities in Charge of Alcohol trains volunteers to spread positive messages and champion local action on alcohol.

The RSPH began offering Alcohol Health Champion training across the country after rolling the project out in Manchester.

The Greater Manchester Big Alcohol Conversation

The Big Alcohol Conversation was a large scale consultation project held in Greater Manchester between November 2018 and February 2019.

The Greater Manchester Health and Social Care Partnership (GMHSCP) and Greater Manchester Centre for Voluntary Organisation (GMCVO) held an event in October (2019) presenting outcomes.

It was said that a ‘Greater Manchester Ambition for Alcohol’ report is being drawn up, but five priorities had been recognised as a result of the Big Alcohol Conversation. They were:

1. Laws and levers

To explore opportunities to seek regulatory and legislative reform, such as around where people can drink and access to alcohol.

2. Doing drinking differently

To incentivise responsible buying and selling of alcohol and showcase opportunities to socialise with moderate and no alcohol use.

3. Protecting our children

To change attitudes and behaviour in adults’ use of alcohol around children and continue work to prevent the harms caused by drinking alcohol in pregnancy.

4. Support for all

To collaborate across services and join up approaches to prevention, early help and supporting the most vulnerable.

5. Continuing the conversation

To change awareness, attitudes and behaviour among people who drink beyond recommended levels but don’t consider themselves harmful drinkers.

The Greater Manchester Drug and Alcohol Strategy

The strategy document did not shy away from the challenges faced.

It said: “The harm caused by drugs and alcohol in Greater Manchester is extensive and affects all our communities and places pressure on many public services.

“We have a far bigger problem than most other places in England.”

In an opening statement within the strategy, Jon Rouse, Chief Officer of the Greater Manchester Health and Social Care Partnership, said that even lifting the area to average levels of drug and alcohol harm would be a significant improvement.

In 2019, a three-year Greater Manchester Drug and Alcohol Strategy was launched setting out a list of priorities to reduce drug and alcohol harm.

Jon Rouse said:

“We don’t often aspire to be average in Greater Manchester....However, when it comes to drugs and alcohol, being average would be no mean feat and would lead to dramatic improvements in outcomes for local people.

“If we were average then, every year, almost 400 fewer people would die early as a direct result of alcohol and there would be over 7,500 fewer alcohol-specific
hospital admissions.

“If we had average levels of drug-related deaths, then over 100 fewer people would die over the life of this strategy.


“Being average would have an enormous impact on the tens of thousands of children living with adults who are drug or alcohol dependent, the adverse childhood experiences that this can bring, and the impact that this has on school and life readiness.”

The human and financial costs of Manchester’s addiction issues


The Greater Manchester Drug and Alcohol Strategy says it is estimated that expenditure on alcohol related crime, health, worklessness and social care costs in the metropolitan area of Great Manchester amount to £1.3bn per annum – approaching £500 per resident.

The report said

The rate of alcohol-specific mortality episodes per 100,000 in Greater Manchester is 50% higher than the England rate.

This equates to 1,189 deaths in the latest three-year tracking period (2015-17).

If the figure for Greater Manchester had matched the rate for England there would have been 396 fewer deaths over the three year tracking period (2015-2017).

There was a 74% rise in drug related deaths in Greater Manchester in the 10 years up to 2019.

This translates to 480 deaths in the latest three-year tracking period (2015-17).

If the figure for Greater Manchester matched the average for England, this would equate to 136 fewer deaths per three year period.

The rate of hospital admissions for alcohol-specific conditions is 53% higher in Greater Manchester than the England average.

In the most recent year of data (2016/17), there were over 22,000 admissions of this kind, with an estimated cost in the region of £43m.

If the GM rate was the same as the average for England, this would equate to more than 7,500 fewer admissions and a cost saving approaching £15m per year.

In 2019, there were 80% more alcohol specific hospital admissions in Manchester than the national average****** 

At last count, in 2018, Manchester’s alcohol specific mortality was still 38% higher than the rate for England.*****

There was a budget of almost £6m for Manchester Integrated Drug & Alcohol Service for the three years up to March 2019, according to a Manchester City Council report. An additional annual budget of £1m helps to fund in patient detox and rehabilitation.

Can I get addiction rehab in Manchester?


It is possible to get funded residential rehab in Manchester in some cases but, in reality, budgets are stretched and only a few people are awarded access to this kind of support.

Shortages of availability and rehab placements
via publicly funded means are not unique
to Manchester.

Most people who benefit from residential rehab pay privately to receive it, especially in the cases of those individuals who have issues with alcohol or cocaine. Priority for NHS-funded residential rehab tends to be given to people dealing with heroin and opiate issues.

Community based treatment is available, but resources for that are also stretched.

An Independent review of drugs by Professor Dame Carol Black – published at the end of February 2020 – examined the harm that drugs cause and the best ways to prevent drug-taking. It painted a worrying picture regarding availability of alcohol and drug treatment.

The report’s findings of statutory/NHS drug treatment resources were concerning.

It said: “The drugs treatment market operates in a very similar way to that of adult social care. Like in the adult social care market, drug treatment providers have been squeezed, staff are paid relatively badly and there has been high turnover in the sector and a depletion of skills, with the number of medics, psychologists, nurses and social workers in the field falling significantly.

“The unregulated role of drug and alcohol or recovery worker, which is inconsistently and poorly defined, makes up the vast majority of the workforce. The number of training places for addiction psychiatrists has plummeted from around 60 to around 5, meaning there is no capacity to train the next generation of specialists.


“All of this means that, even if more funding became available (which is vital), there would be a lot of work to do to build up capacity and expertise in the market.



“Most current treatment capacity is absorbed by the long-term cohort of opiate users, many of whom have been in treatment for a long time (1 in 6 have been in treatment for over a decade). Some of these are also now using crack cocaine, creating new health problems. Providers often have to prioritise meeting the urgent health needs of this population, meaning the capacity to develop expertise and services to meet the needs of other cohorts is limited.”


Dame Carol said:

“Treatment services have been curtailed by local government funding cuts. The total cost to society of illegal drugs is around £20 billion per year, but only £600 million is spent on treatment and prevention. So the amount of unmet need is growing, some treatment services are disappearing, and the treatment workforce is declining in number and quality.

It is this report that notes Manchester has the largest number of county lines drug dealing networks, along with London, Birmingham and Liverpool. A trademark of ‘county lines’ is the exploitation of vulnerable young people and use of them to transport drugs and money.

The report said 20% of people in drug and alcohol treatment have a severe housing problem and the Housing First model, which is being piloted in Greater Manchester, may contribute to an improved situation. This globally-proven scheme helps rough sleepers into homes regardless of whether they have substance use issues (see above).

Some local authorities have reduced treatment expenditure by 40%, the report said.

Shortfalls in funding and availability of addiction treatment services

An evidence pack published alongside Dame Carol Black’s report said that, nationally:

  • Overall funding for alcohol and drug treatment has fallen by 17%.
  • Many local authorities will have reduced drug and alcohol expenditure by far larger amounts, with residential rehabilitation services being particularly hard hit.
  • Some areas are already ‘rationing’ treatment by setting higher thresholds for being able to access structured care, with drug users who would have received treatment previously being diverted into less intensive and potentially less evidence based interventions.
  • It’s likely many areas are now offering the bare minimum service with large increases in worker caseloads an inevitability .
  • There is a persistent and widespread issue of people with co-occurring conditions often being excluded from services.
  • It is not uncommon for mental health services to exclude people because of
    co-occurring alcohol/drug use. This is a particular problem for those diagnosed with serious mental illness, who may also be excluded from alcohol and drug services due to the severity of their mental illness.

Places to contact for help with alcohol and drug issues in Greater Manchester

Whilst securing a placement in residential rehab via the NHS may be extremely challenging, there are teams of professionals working hard to provide support to people battling addiction.

Much of the statutory support available takes place in the community.
Free addiction treatment, advice and information is available via:



Manchester city

For adults and children:
Change Grow Live (CGL)
0161 226 5526

For adults:
0161 484 000


18 and under:
360° Substance Misuse Service
01204 337 330

Achieve Bolton
01204 337 330


18 and under:
Early Break
0161 723 3880

Over 18:
Recovery Bury
0161 253 6488


18 and under:
Positive Steps
0161 621 9400

Over 18:
Turning Point – Rochdale and Oldham Recovery (ROAR)
0300 555 0234


18 and under:
Early Break
0161 723 3880

Over 18:
Turning Point – Rochdale and Oldham Recovery (ROAR)
0300 555 0234


18 and under:
Early Break
0161 723 3880

For adults:
Achieve Salford
0161 358 0991


Aged 25 and under:
MOSAIC (Young People’s Drug & Alcohol Service)
0161 218 1100

Aged 26+:
Change Grow Live (CGL) Stockport
0161 474 1343

0161 474 3141


Change Grow Live – Tameside
0161 474 1343


For those aged 18
and under:
Early Break
0161 723 3880

For adults:
Achieve Trafford
0161 358 0991


We are with you (formerly Addaction) Wigan
01942 487 578

0161 474 3141

*There were 49 cases per 100,000 population of alcohol related cancer in Manchester at the most recent count in 2015-17, Public Health England figures state. The national rate was 38.

**The number of dependent drinkers in Manchester was said to be 2.35% at last count in 2014/15, according to Local Alcohol Profiles. The rate for England was 1.39%.

***Admissions where drug related mental and behavioural disorders were a factor was 321 per 100,000 population in Manchester in 2018/19, NHS Digital figures show. In England it was 175. Wigan was 362.

****There were 8.2 deaths from drugs misuse per 100,000 population in Manchester when figures were most recently collated, in 2016-18. The rate in England was 4.5.

*****The alcohol specific mortality rate in Manchester was 14.9 per 100,000 population in the period 2016-2018, according to Public Health England. The average rate for England was 10.8.

******The rate of hospital admissions for alcohol specific conditions was 1,126 per 100,000 population in Manchester in 2019, according to Public Health England. In England the rate was 626.