Background The use of illegal drugs is seen as a major social problem.The social costs can be high.
Methods Self-report data from interviews at intake to the National Treatment Outcome Research Study (NTORS) for 1075 drug users and cost data from various sources were used to estimate criminal behaviour and health and addiction service costs for a 12-month period. Multivariate statistical analysis was used to analyse cost variations.
Results Total costs for one year for the drug users amounted to over [pound sterling] 12 million, the majority attributable to self-reported criminal behaviour. Social costs were positively related to a variety of factors including instability in living circumstances, amount of heroin used and whether or not drugs were taken intravenously.
Conclusions The study clearly demonstrates the economic and social burden associated with heavy drug users and highlights the need for further investigations into the costs and benefits of policies that can reduce these social costs.