Addiction Overseas: United Kingdom

06/10/20: Addiction
Drug abuse and consumption in the United Kingdom are extremely prevalent. The abuse of drugs and substances is not something new in the country. However, the presence of addiction might have increased in the last decade or so. Drug abuse has become so rampant, that around 36 billion pounds are spent by the nation every year to fix the abuse-related cases. In 2013, the Center for Social Justice stated that the United Kingdom has turned out to be the “addiction capital of Europe”. The country has seen a spike in addiction-related cases in the past few years. The trends in the abuse range from alcohol to heroin and from tobacco to cocaine. According to a report by the National Drug Treatment Monitoring System, 279,793 people were in contact with drug and alcohol services in England. Let’s try to look into the analysis of substance abuse in the United Kingdom.

The History of Drug Usage in the United Kingdom

Drug use in the United Kingdom wasn’t a pressing issue until the 1970s. The cases related to drug addiction were confined to a few odd cases of heroin users. However, a few years later, in the 1980s, things took a turn. The overall change in social behavior and the ease of availability meant a large and varied increase in drug usage. Back in 1975, there were around 5,000 heroin consumers in England. This number rose due to many economic and geopolitical factors. The deindustrialization process rendered many people jobless which added to the overall increase in substance usage. Moreover, after the Iranian revolution, the movement of heroin from Afghanistan became a lot easier.

Addiction in the United Kingdom

In order to understand the issue related to addiction in the United Kingdom, it is important to understand the sources of addiction. Here are the major drugs which are consumed in the United Kingdom.
  1. Cannabis: Cannabis is the most commonly used drug in the United Kingdom. However, the use of cannabis saw a downward trend around 2003-04, and the curve almost flattened by 2009-10. Cannabis has seen popularity amongst the younger respondents in many surveys. The major types of cannabis used in the United Kingdom involve herbal cannabis and resin.
  2. Alcohol: Despite being so common, alcohol is one of the largest contributors to cases of abuse in the UK. In 2015 alone, there were around 8,000 cases of drunk driving reported in the country. Around 595,000 people suffer from alcoholism in the country. However, only one-fifth of them receive treatment for their substance abuse disorders.
  3. Cocaine: Cocaine turns out to be the most used drug in the United Kingdom after cannabis. In a survey by the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction, 4% of young adults confirmed consuming cocaine at least once in their lives. The users of cocaine have largely remained stable over the years in the United Kingdom.
  4. Ecstasy/MDMA: 3.1% of people between the ages of 16 and 34 confirmed using MDMA once in their lives. The report shows a partially fluctuating, but mostly stable usage of the drugs by many residents of the UK.
  5. Opioid: Prescription based opioid addiction has risen over the years. Tramadol, in particular, has seen a rise in its usage over the years. It has led to a rising number of deaths in England and Northern Ireland. Even though the drug was linked to a number of deaths, it was the most prescribed drug in the UK between 2011 and 2014. Witnessing a dependence on Tramadol seems a bit difficult due to its usage.
  6. Benzodiazepine: Prescription benzodiazepine is yet another contributor to the UK’s addiction epidemic. They are usually prescribed to deal with anxiety and stress. One of the most popular benzos around the world is called Xanax. The chronology of addiction to benzodiazepine is quite simple. It is prescribed by the doctors to deal with stress and anxiety for not more than 10 days. The potency of benzos makes them highly addictive, even if one takes doses as directed by their doctors.
  7. Amphetamine: An amphetamine is a kind of drug which is used for both medical purposes, but is often used for recreational purposes. Apart from just a physical dependence, amphetamine also creates psychological dependence on the user. The drug is one of the least popular ones in the UK, however, many patients who suffered from seizures were found to have the substance in their system.
  8. Nicotine: Smoking is yet again one of the most popular practices in the United Kingdom. Due to it being legal and easily accessible economically and socially, it tends to be one of the most prevalent addictions.

Drug Use and Trends

Overall drug use in the United Kingdom has slowed down in the last 10 years. Cannabis was the most used and consumed drug in the United Kingdom, until now. Cocaine is on the rise. Apart from cocaine, MDMA/ecstasy is the drug that prevails over most. There has also been a decline in the presence of users injecting substances through needles. However, one-third of the users who seek treatment for their addiction report injecting drugs into their system regularly. Moreover, data from 2017 shows that there has been a rise in the injection of the crack in the England and Wales regions. Drug-induced death is the fifth most common cause of unnatural death in the 15 to 49 age group. Heroin is the most common participant in the drug-infused deaths. Although, among the people going for drug abuse treatment, heroin remains the primary substance. In 2017, England came up with a strategy to fight the drug epidemic which involved reducing demand, restricting supply, building recovery centers, and calling for global action.

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