When we talk about addiction, to me I imagine people over the age of 30, but what is the typical age of an addict? My recent experiences have taught me that the age of addicts in the UK are probably getting younger than I would have thought. Initially I thought of the older demographic, someone that have abused substances for a long period of time causing dependency and sustained damage to the body, and brain, but this theory is just scratching the surface of whats really going on.
I think to some degree there is some truth in this idea as common sense suggests its simply a case of time catching up with the older generation of people and their body’s are simply packing up to the point where the damage is irreparable but I also think that the issue of addiction in the younger generation is gradually getting worse and will continue in this fashion.
If you are over 30 (like me or for that matter almost towing it) it isn’t so difficult to walk into your local drug and alcohol misuse service, or go to the doctors, or discuss it with a psych doctor, but what about if you are of the younger age group, the 15-25 year old’s, then how easy is it to ask for help? I don’t think that it is at all. For the older (and slightly wiser) generation it gets to a point where your addiction as I said earlier has finally taken its toll on your body and from a medical point of view you simply have to quit or die!! Us older lot also have mortgages, families, responsibilities and whilst at the time we have our heads buried in our addiction and put the drink and drugs before all of the important things, it comes to a point where you have to stop or lose everything completely. When you are younger you tend to be foot loose and fancy free and have no responsibilities and in terms of your welfare for you health, lets face it its pretty non existent at that age, I know speaking from experience I thought that I was invincible and that nothing I put into my body was having any detrimental effects, but that couldn’t have been further from the truth but finding out would be painful.
I was one of the ones who was on the brink of losing everything, well that is of whatever was left and that hadn’t be pawned or sold, so despite me wanting to give up for so long and making false promises to myself and others I had no other option otherwise the harsh reality is I would have been dead.
I spent 12 months going to my local drug and alcohol misuse service, but I was well past the stage of that helping me in any way shape or form, in fact it didn’t touch the sides. It got me thinking though, if my circumstances were different, in other words if I was a pup, with the world ahead of me, would I be able to ask for help? we all know that you wont listen to anyone at that age, so I asked myself if I was that age, would I have asked for help and what is available for me to ask for help?
- TALK TO FRANK
- AA, NC or CA
- UK SMART RECOVERY
- Local substance misuse service
- Residential Rehab
If I was younger, I would struggle to go to a meeting or my substance misuse service, mainly due to either embarrassment, lack of understanding that there is actually a problem or just because its not a ‘cool thing to do’. AA/CA & NC statistically don’t seem to be popular with the youngsters from what I have seen, I think there is a bit of a deterrent with the ‘Higher Power’ ideology and the simple understanding of it all, it comes across as religious and even though its not its hard to look under that. ‘Talk to Frank’, is OK, a little outdated with its campaign which is nearly 10 years old and for me fails to connect with youngsters and definitely isn’t ‘down with the kids‘ despite its attempt by naming all the drugs and their ‘street names’.
With this said how do we connect with this age group? For starters, one of the main issues for me is the poor online presence and availability of services, advice and options. We live in an age where pretty much everything is done online from banking to shopping and even checking in onto a flight, so why isn’t there better online websites, social media and guidance? Why does it seem like the recovery field is actually swimming against the tide in terms of modernisation? Surely if ‘addicts’ are becoming younger, our means of communication should adapt to that?
You may be wondering why i’m focusing so heavily on the younger age group, why is this so important? Well, you may have heard, read or even tried new ‘fashionable or craze drugs’ like Mcat, spice, herbal highs, all available over the counter or even online, for ridiculously cheap prices like £10 and upwards which makes it accessible for kids in their early teens and upwards. I have personally seen it myself, kids who cant be much older than 13 or 14 scoring Mcat, and drinking alcohol in the park when I walk my dog, admittedly I would more often than not have been there to see my own dealer, so I knew all the signs and could spot it all a mile off, but those days for me are a thing of the past, because I sought help, went to see a councillor and battled through rehab, but for the youngsters however I believe it has become a culture, a serious problem and one that will get worse and that’s not to mention the possible long term effects of some of these ‘new drugs’ which we have no sustained evidence yet and the potential mental health issues that attach themselves, having seen some images of inmates in prison cells recently on Spice, I cant imagine there will be any positive long term effects, so God knows what addiction will look like in 10-20 years time, its literally a potential minefield.
I personally found there to be a massive gap in the services available from the local drug/alcohol service to rehab, there seemed to be nothing in between, it was one or the other. I was heavily addicted, couldn’t see a way out yet the rehab services felt like a million miles away. I subsequently ended up in a psychiatric unit twice as a result of trying to keep myself safe and off the streets away from drugs. I was lucky to get the chance to be funded in a top class residential rehab programme, however there are many that don’t, the harsh reality is that most people who are seeking help, get lost somewhere in that gap where they either relapse, continue using or they die.
With this said if the drugs culture amongst youngsters is getting worse, and statistics would suggest that it is so for me the first thing that needs to happen is a modern approach towards recovery services, better online presence and support, with smart apps and help from people with similar experiences, and the ability to create a common ground.
The second and most important thing would be better education in schools. The modern day curriculum seems so outdated full of subjects kids will never use again from the minute they leave the school gates after their GCSE’s. Schools would be far better educating kids on society issues such as drugs, hard hitting topics, and people that have been in the gutter and can explain what a dark place it is, a real deterrent. This kind of education along with the mental/physical and financial implications of addiction would be better than teaching kids about the tectonic plates and The San Andreas Fault (with all due respect to Geography teachers) just like kids should also be taught about money management, credit cards, online banking and more relevant topics that they’ll use immediately and will stand them in good stead. Our society seems to change and evolve from year to year, one year we’re in a recession the next we’re in a boom, then there are new drugs then there are legal highs, why aren’t we educating the next generation better? Surely the ‘prevention is better than cure’ theory comes to mind. If the younger generation are better educated then potentially the problem can be improved at the earliest stages, which will have positive long term impacts on healthcare, education and mental health.
Better online / modernised services & better education for our kids.
Is this making it all sound too simple?
It is as simple as it sounds, we make it far harder and more complex than it needs to be
The reality is this…. There is a future of young adults who are stuck in the drugs culture whether addicted or not, they wont ask for help and probably wont think they need support,they’ll have no motivation or capability of working as they’ll be suffering from the wide array of illnesses that are a byproduct such as liver failure, heart disease, severe depression or other mental illnesses.
Its a bleak outlook with heavy showers of addiction ahead.
Unless things change, and fast!!