OUR DRUG CULTURE

Drugs have been part of our culture since the middle of the last century. Popularised in the 1960s by music and mass media, they invade all aspects of society.

An estimated 250 million people internationally consume illegal drugs. According to a 2005 survey of 16- to 29-year-olds, 25.3 percent in England had used drugs in the past year. In Wales, this statistic was 18.9 percent and in Scotland 17 percent. A 2011 survey in Ireland reported 15 percent of young adults had consumed illegal drugs in the past year.

You probably know someone who has been affected by drugs, directly or indirectly.

The alcohol-related death rate in the UK increased from 12.9 deaths per 100,000 population in 2005, to 13.4 in 2006.

The most commonly used illegal drug is marijuana. According to the United Nations 2008 World Drug Report, about 3.9% of the world’s population between the ages of 15 and 64 abuse marijuana.

Young people today are exposed earlier than ever to drugs. A survey done on 11- to 15-year-olds in the UK found that 26 percent had drunk alcohol in the past week, with the average amount of alcohol consumption per week being 12.7 units, roughly ten drinks.

In Europe, recent studies among 15- and 16-year-olds suggest that use of marijuana varies from under 10% to over 40%, with the highest rates reported by teens in the Czech Republic (44%), followed by Ireland (39%), the UK (38%) and France (38%). In Spain and the United Kingdom, cocaine use among 15- to 16-year-olds is 4% to 6%. Cocaine use among young people has risen in Denmark, Italy, Spain, UK, Norway and France.

“My goal in life wasn’t living . . . it was getting high. Over the years, I turned to cocaine, marijuana and alcohol under a false belief it would allow me to escape my problems. It just made things worse. I kept saying to myself, I’m going to stop permanently after using one last time. It never happened.” —John

“It started with the weed, then the pills (Ecstasy) and acid, making cocktails of all sorts of drugs, even overdosing to make the rushes last longer. I had a bad trip one night . . . I prayed and cried for this feeling to go away, I had voices in my head, had the shakes and couldn’t leave home for six months. I thought everyone was watching me. I couldn’t walk in public places. Man! I couldn’t even drive.

“I ended up homeless and on the streets, living and sleeping in a cardboard box, begging and struggling to find ways to get my next meal.” —Ben