As part of my BA Hons in Youth and Community Work at Huddersfield University, I have to complete a work placement. I am at Outlook which is a service led by Lifeline for adults who have had or currently have a drug and alcohol addiction.
For the Communication and Self management module I have been asked to write a report on the professional context in which I am working on my placement.
The investigation leading to this report is designed to improve the understanding of key issues relating to drug addiction amongst adults in the UK.
I aim to identify the key theories relating to drug addiction amongst adults in the UK.
I will be using relevant sources of information which I have gathered together in order to give my report a balanced conclusion.
2.1, Research methods
I have gathered together relevant sources of information for this report from various websites and books.
I have used extracts from:-
Connexions. Drugs and Alcohol (reader)
Home office documents
Living with drugs third edition
These are the four most useful sources I have found to complete my report.
3.1, Factors related to drug misuse
Drug misuse is one of the scourges of modern society. It affects people from all walks of life and from many different backgrounds. It destroys families and young lives. Drug addiction is a major health issue. Drug misuse is directly responsible for the deaths of 3,000 people a year, some of whom are as young as 14 (Home Office 1998).
Research has indicated that there are some factors which can help identify those who are particularly vulnerable to developing problematic drug use. These are called ‘risk factors’:-
* Mental health problems
* Family with drug problems
* Being abused
* Chaotic home environments
* Involved with the criminal justice system
* Homeless or poor housing
* Low school achievement
(SCODA, 1999b, PAT 2000)
Drugs play an important part in the lives of every one of us. Drug taking is an almost universal phenomenon, and in the statistical sense of the term it is the person who does not take drugs who is abnormal (Gossop M. 1988).
This quote by Gossop 1988 I believe to be true as everyone in everyday life does take some form of drug, be it nicotine, alcohol, caffeine, or illegal substances like heroin or cocaine.
3.2, Where is drug misuse a problem?
Drug misuse is not just a problem in deprived areas: equally, not every disadvantaged area has a serious drugs problem. But drug misuse and the crime and anti-social behaviour tat is associated with it, compounds the other problems that deprived neighbourhoods face and creates a vicious downward spiral.
There are a number of factors that can lead to this downward spiral, for example
* Barriers to take up legitimate work in the area or area close by;
* High rates of truancy and few activities to keep young people occupied;
* A culture of hostility towards the police, and perceived lack of police presence;
* Poor physical design of housing estates and public areas;
* Poor housing management in both the public and private sector;
* Highly mobile populations leading to a high turnover of tenancies and no stable community support;
* Properties standing empty and areas effectively abandoned.
Many of these ways were set out in the Governments neighbourhood renewal strategy plan – ‘A New Commitment to Neighbourhood Renewal: National Strategy Action Plan’ – published in January 2003. The action plan reflects the recommendations of a study in 1998 by the Social Exclusion Unit of the problems faced by deprived neighbourhoods.
3.3, Drug misuse and Crime
The chancellor announced in the budget (2001) that more than ï¿½200m over three years is to be distributed through Crime and Disorder Reduction Partnerships, to be spent on targeted, locally determined measures designed to strengthen communities and tackle drugs and drug related crime. This money will be targeted at areas with the toughest problems to tackle.
There are 100,000 persistent offenders in Britain alone, and it is estimated that nearly two thirds of the persistent offenders are hard drug users and nearly three quarters started offending when they were between 13 and 15 (Home Office 1998).
I feel this high number of hard drug use at such a young age is due to the fact that young people and parents have not been advised about the risks and consequences of drug misuse.
Effective policing on our streets will also help to crack down on the crime committed through drug misuse. In 2002-2003 the government funded for 9000 (Home Office 1998) more police recruits to work in the communities to help tackle the massive increase in drug related crime.
3.4, What can be done?
The government needs to ensure that the groups of young people most at risk of developing drug problems receive appropriate and specific interventions, and that all young people from all backgrounds, whatever their culture, gender or race, have access to these.
There needs to be a more integrated approach to personal, social and health education both in and out of formal education settings to. I also believe that effective and targeted national or local publicity may help drug misuse less culturally acceptable to younger people.
The government have already started funding services like Outlook where I am on placement. This is a confidential service that offers daily support for anyone who has currently got or has had a drug/alcohol problem.
The project offers different activities and support. And also provides advice on returning to work or training.
There are also drug services available for young people but these are not easily accessed.
Money has been allocated to tackling drug abuse in England and is concentrating on expanding treatment provision to tackle both the health and crime consequences of drug misuse.
3.5, Key theories related to drug misuse
There are said to be three key theories around drug misuse. These are constitutional, individual, and environmental. All have been outlined above.
Constitutional approaches are concerned with either biological predispositions or with the relationship between drug and body (DrugScope 2000).
Individual approaches are largely concerned with either unusual personality traits or far more general factors such as extroversion which may explain willingness to experiment or indulge in drugs (DrugScope 2000).
Environmental approaches relate drug use to wider social and cultural factors (DrugScope 2000).
There have been severeal discussions in to why certain type of drug use, especially recreational drug use has blossomed, and several sociological theories have been applied to the post-war spread of drugs in Britain. Such theories attribute drug use to new social pressures, such as competition for jobs, housing and education. Those whose needs are left unmet by the mainstream of society simply opt out, turning instead to the supportive ‘alternative’ lifestyle of the drug scene.
The Government is already doing a lot to help tackle the problems caused by drug misuse.
And there are many reasons why a person turns to drugs.
One of the main causes is social pressures, and the need to be accepted by society. Through hard drug use evolves crime and disorder and the high number of hard drug users in the UK has contributed to the high number of offenders that we see today.
For many people who choose to adopt the lifestyle of a drug addict it provides them with friendship and social support, and strong social pressures as outlined above, encourage individuals to conform to certain patterns of drug use as part of more general lifestyle.
One of the most commonly given reasons for drug use is peer pressure. This appears to be as applicable to heroin users as to cannabis smokers. Everyone is likely to be exposed to if not influenced by the enthusiasm of their peers. And sometimes this pressure generates strong social endorsement for using some form of drug/alcohol.
The environmental approach relates drug use to wider social and cultural factors. And it looks in to the life experiences of drug takers, and emphasis issues such as broken homes, delinquency, education and occupational disadvantages.
Over the last 20 years, drug misuse has increased and become more closely associated with social disadvantage. The impact of drug problems often spreads to communities who then face a rise in anti-social behaviour, crime and family breakdown.
These factors outlined in my report do not necessarily lead to problematic drug use, and where problematic drug use does occur, rigorous and careful research clearly shows that there is usually no simple chain. It is equally clear that it would be unrealistic to conclude that research in any single field has all the answers.