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Drug Abuse in Rural Areas

A Home Office commissioned review of research ‘Drugs prevention in Rural Areas:’ DPI Paper 17, indicates that drugs are widely available in rural areas but there was no reliable data by which to compare rural and urban drug misuse. www.crimereduction.gov.uk/rural8.htm

The report stressed the importance of a broad- based approach, setting drugs in the wider family and social context and building on existing community structures and networks.

Key Points:

  • Drug availability has increased, with the nature and extent of misuse varying from area to area.

  • The principle distinguishing feature of drugs prevention work in rural areas was a marked reluctance to acknowledge that there was a problem.

  • The relative lack of anonymity within rural residential areas led to a fear of identification.

  • Young people were more visible and therefore attracted more attention and stronger policing of their behaviour.

  • There was a low awareness of services, and many service areas were seen as under-resourced

Other difficulties for service providers were finding suitable premises, the cost of travel and the recruitment, training management and support of staff.

The Police Research Group report TACKLING RURAL DRUGS PROBLEMS; A Participatory Approach , Crime Detection and Prevention Series Paper 81 (http://www.homeoffice.gov.uk/rds/policerspubs1.html) advocates an scheme called Participatory Drugs Profiling (PDP)

The profile establishes a shared view of the nature and extent of drug misuse in a rural area; Driffield, using a variety of formats including:

  • The life history of a drug user

  • The criminal justice career of a drug user

  • The pattern of drug use in the community

  • The network of victims of drug use

This approach is intended to enhance a rural partnership’s ability to respond to drugs in a sensitive and balanced way.


Table 2.8  Drug use in the last year and month, by area type and age

  16-29 30-59 All 16-59
Last Year      
Inner City 32 7 16
Urban 24 5 10
Rural 25 4 8
Last Month      
Inner City 18 4 9
Urban 15 3 6
Rural 16 2 4

Notes: Inner city areas are defined at the sampling stage, as those postcodes sectors with high population density, low owner occupation and a low proportion of professionals.
Rural areas are defined as those falling into ACORN types 1 to 9 and 27 (CACI Ltd).
Urban areas are those which are not classified as either rural or inner city.  17 per cent of 16 to 29 year olds live in inner city areas; 67% in urban areas and 16% in rural areas.
Source: 1998 BCS (weighted data).

The above table is based on a self-completion module on drug misuse and compares levels of misuse in rural and non-rural areas for the year 1998 as part of the 1998 British Crime Survey. http://www.homeoffice.gov.uk/rds/pdfs/hosb2198.pdf

The Drugs Prevention Advisory Service web site has a comprehensive list of contacts, publications and good practice recommendations relevant to rural areas. www.homeoffice.gov.uk/dpas/dpas.htm

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