Addiction rates are rising in the UK: The facts you need to know

Despite the UK having strict laws and penalties for illicit drug suppliers, it has one of the highest rates of death by drugs in Europe. It averages out to 76 deaths per million people. And this is not just a current rise in alcohol consumption.

In 2013, the UK was termed as the ‘addiction capital of Europe’ given the level of legal drugs, with illegal class-A drugs that hold the highest penalties.

There are several reasons behind the rise of alcohol and drug addiction. One core reason is the access and affordability of drugs. Another reason is the rising mental health problems. Addiction is a comorbid condition that comes with acute mental health disorders.

With 34% of patients being diagnosed with substance abuse and PTSD at the same time, this figure highlights the connection between addiction and mental health. This is why more and more people are looking for drug and alcohol rehabilitation help.

Here are some more facts that highlight the alarming situation of drug and alcohol abuse in the UK.

Drug and Alcohol Usage Statistics

In 2018 alone, drug poisoning caused the deaths of 4,359 people in the UK. This was a 17% rise from the previous year which shows the rising addiction rates in the country.

Furthermore, drug usage starts from minors from the age of 15 years which is a more alarming situation. Also, the usage of drugs is correlated to the frequency of visits to nightclubs and pubs which rise sharply year on year.

As a result, peer pressure which is one of the top causes of addiction stems from group gatherings in these clubs.

The consumption statistics of drugs at least once a year is also alarming as figures have risen from 20% of the population in 2019 to 21% in 2020. This is about 1.3 million people. While the year-on-year change remains meager, over time, the change is significant indicating a ticking bomb.

Addiction Treatment Statistics

In the year 2020, the UK government spent £36 billion on drug and alcohol abuse treatments. This was 1 billion more than the spend of the previous year.

With the rise in addiction, it is likely that it is connected to a rise in spending on addiction treatment. However, the stigma that is associated with drug abuse results in less than 1/5th of the people suffering from addiction seeking treatment.

The problem is not lack of access to facilities, but lack of willingness to seek treatment. Alcohol and drug abuse are highly stigmatized. While mental health issues are stigmatized as well, people tend to believe that addiction is a personal choice, thus the stigma.

Additionally, stigma results in hindrance towards seeking treatment and causes relapse because of the lack of a support system for the person undergoing the problem.

Mental Health and Addiction

While one of the main causes of stigmatizing alcohol and drug abuse is the perception that it is a personal choice, there are studies that show one-third of alcohol and drug abusers have a history of trauma leading to the addiction.

Since one-third of alcohol abuse begins with a history of trauma, those who are suffering from PTSD or depression are more susceptible to spiraling into addiction.

With a staggering 30% of the population suffering from at least one mental health condition in the country, and the correlation between mental health and alcohol and drug abuse, the rise in addiction is self-explanatory.

Alcohol and Drug Prices

While prices of alcohol and drugs have been rising steadily over time, it is still accessible and affordable for the masses. Since 2005, the price of drugs and alcohol has risen by 36%. However, compared to the figures from the 1980s, it is 60% more affordable given the rise in wage levels.

Illicit drugs available at low prices alongside legal alcohol is one core reason for the rise in addiction rates in the UK.

Summing it Up

Addiction rates in the UK are rising because of many factors. However, stigma is one of the core issues that restrict people suffering from addiction from seeking treatment. As a result, the rise in treatment for alcohol abuse is not rising as rapidly as the addiction problem.

Unfortunately, the lack of supportive laws regarding addiction treatment also adds fuel to the fire.

In the US while employees seeking addiction treatment are safeguarded from discrimination to a great extent, the UK needs to rework its policy that addresses the stigma associated with addiction as well as tighten the implementation of laws related to illicit drugs supply.