How common is it for people to drink and use drugs?
There has been a lot of publicity recently about the reduction in the proportion of young people drinking. More than a quarter (27%) of young people aged 16 – 24 years old do not drink at all, compared to around a fifth of the total adult population. Conversely, older people aged over 65 are more likely than to drink than in the past (75% do now, compared to 70% around 10 years ago).
So are younger people turning to illicit drugs now instead of alcohol? Around a fifth (19%) of young people aged 16 – 24 years admit to using illicit drugs which is more than in the past. We should not be complacent about younger people and their use of alcohol and drugs. More young people who do drink, binge drink. If young people regularly use drugs such as cannabis, it can have a much more severe effect on their brain. Cannabis is known to stunt brain development and we have seen many young people here at the Haynes Clinic (most often young men) whose emotional maturity and cognitive skills have been damaged by use of cannabis from a young age – usually from their early teens. This is at least in part due to the strength of cannabis now, skunk being so much stronger from the marijuana that used to be around in the past.
Illicit drugs cause significant and serious mental health problems. In 2016-17, there were over 7500 admissions to hospital due to drug related mental ill health and behaviour. This is not counting the many thousands of visits to A and E that are drug related each year. Three quarters of these admissions were men with the most common age group affected being 25 – 34 year olds. In addition there were over 14,000 admissions due to poisoning from illicit drugs, 25 – 34 year olds again being most likely to be affected. Men and women were similarly affected by this (admissions 53% men and 47% women).
We have all seen media coverage with personal stories of families who have lost loved ones to drugs. These are just the tip of the iceberg. As many as 2600 people died from the use of illicit drugs in the year for which numbers are most recently available (2016 – 2017), mainly due to accidental poisoning but a small number due to intentional overdose. This accounts for 0.5% of all deaths.
Of course, while it may not be right or something we would want to happen, it is a fact that many if not most young people will drink too much or at least try some illegal drug at some point in their lives. We just have to hope that they learn quickly to moderate their drinking and not to use drugs at all. If you have someone you love who you are concerned about – young or of more advanced years! – we do offer free assessments here at the Haynes Clinic in which we can ascertain if they are drinking or using at problem levels and point them in the direction of the help and support available either here at the rehab clinic, or in the community.
Author: Dr Magda Czerwinska