Parents Understanding Drugs

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What is an addict?

A person's life does not need to be a mess for them to be an addict.

An addict can be a person living on the streets begging to survive, or a high functioning professional with good friends, a loving family, and a successful career.

A person who drinks too much every weekend may be an addict. A person who takes painkillers most days, may be an addict. A person who cannot relax in social situations withou a drink or an E first, may be an addict.

It is better to be safe rather than sorry. If there is even the slightest chance of a problem, seek non-judgemental, confidential advice.

What should you do?

See a GP.

Whether you are concerned about yourself or someone else, the first thing to do is to visit your GP.

A GP will not judge, and a GP consultation is confidential. Furthermore, a GP is familiar with and has access to the services and treatments to deal with addiction.

There are many wonderful organisatons like FRANK and Release that can provide outstanding information and advice. Both offer outstanding services that are confidential and non-judgemental. Speak to them to answer questions, but if after doing so, there is any concern that there might be a problem, book an appointment with your GP.

What does treatment involve?

This will depend on where you lie on the 'addiction spectrum'. A doctor will help you work out the appropriate service you need.

If your body is physically dependent on a substance, then you need to detox it from your system. This will be medically assisted so you come off your evil-of-choice in a gradual and safe way. Group therapy will follow, as well as individual discussions looking at the reasons behind your addiction.

"Addiction help isn't about a doctor repeatedly telling you, 'this is bad for you'. It's about working with the person and looking at the pros and cons of using," says Dr Hill.

Recovery is a process and not an end in itself. Take it one day at a time. For example, if you're a heavy drinker, telling yourself "I'll try not to drink tomorrow" instead of "I can never drink again" might help. Hard though it might be, it's worth being optimistic about the future.

Useful organisations and websites

  • SupportLine Telephone Helpline: 01708 765200 email info@supportline.org.uk Provides emotional support and keeps details of local agencies providing help and support for all issues relating to Drugs.
  • Action on Addiction: 0300 330 0659 www.actiononaddiction.org.uk Range of abstinence based treatment services for people with severe dependency on alcohol and drugs. Residential care, day treatment, outpatient counselling and community services. Projects in SW London and Liverpool areas. (reg.charity)
  • Adfam: 020 7553 7640 www.adfam.org.uk Supporting families affected by drugs and alcohol. Provides publications for families (free for family members and friends) and details of local family support groups. Adfam works with family members affected by someone else's drug or alcohol use.
  • Addaction: helps change behaviour from drug or alcohol abuse to worries about mental health. Call on 020 7251 5860.
  • Blenheim CDP 020 7582 2200 Leading substance misuse charity working across London to reduce the harm by drug misuse to individuals and the public.
  • City Roads Crisis Intervention: 020 7278 8671 24hr telephone service UK wide and emergency residential care for drug users in crisis. Please note the service is for drug users in crisis only.
  • DAN 24/7 0808 808 2234 www.dan247.org.uk National Drug and Alcohol Helpline for people in Wales Families Anonymous: 0845 120 0660 www.famanon.org.uk Telephone and other support services for families and friends of drug users. 50 groups throughout the UK offering help and support to members based on the 12 step programme.
  • FRANK: 0300 123 6600 Helpline for anyone concerned about drug or solvent misuse. Advice and information for drug misusers, their families, friends, carers. (Formerly known as the National Drugs Helpline).
  • Know the Score: 0800 587 5879 (Area served Scotland) www.knowthescore.info Information line for the public in Scotland providing facts about drugs and their effects.
  • Phoenix Futures: Central Office 020 7234 9740 Scotland 0141 3364272 Charity and housing association which has been helping people overcome drug and alcohol problems for more than 40 years. Residential, prison, community and specialist services run across England and Scotland.
  • UK Narcotics Anonymous : 0300 999 1212, www.ukna.org - Helpline and regular self help meetings for addicts who have a desire to stop using and who wish to support each other in remaining drug free.
  • Release: 020 7324 2989 Helpline and support for drug users, families, friends. Advice on drug related subjects including health, welfare and legal issues. Referrals to lawyers and local drug services.
  • Re-Solv Enquiries: Helpline: 01785 810762 www.re-solv.org Helpline providing information and support for people concerned about solvent or volatile substance abuse problems.
  • Turning Point: 020 7481 7600 www.turning-point.co.uk To enable people with serious problems related to drug and alcohol misuse, mental health and learning disabilities to lead more independent lives by providing high quality community services. Run over 200 projects and schemes nationally ranging from residential rehabilitation centres to drop in counselling services, needle exchanges, phone advice services and individual community workers.
  • www.lukeandmarcustrust.org.uk For anyone fighting drug or addiction problems within their family or circle of friends and needs help, information, or just a shoulder to cry on.
  • www.smartrecovery.org.uk Smart Recovery UK runs a network of self help/mutual aid meetings where, through open and confidential discussion participants help each other and themselves with recovery from any kind of addictive behaviour. Also online community of meetings. The purpose is to help individuals seeking abstinence from addictive behaviours to gain independence, achieve recovery and lead meaningful and satisfying lives.
  • Young People - For information about drugs check out the information on www.thesite.org run by YouthNet UK

Drugs in the News

Nobel Peace Prize: Santos calls for 'rethink' of war on drugs

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The President of Colombia, Juan Manuel Santos, has used his Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech to call for the world to "rethink" the war on drugs.

He said the zero-tolerance policy might be "even more harmful" than all the other wars being fought worldwide.Drugs workers fear a "bad batch of heroin" could have led to the deaths of at least seven drug users in recent weeks in the Gwent Police force area.

BBC News, 8 December 2016


Heroin deaths prompt 'fix room'

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Drugs workers fear a "bad batch of heroin" could have led to the deaths of at least seven drug users in recent weeks in the Gwent Police force area.

BBC News, 26 November 2016


The babies starting life in rehab

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According to NHS figures, 1,087 babies in England were affected by maternal use of drugs in 2014-15, while in Scotland 987 babies were affected.

BBC News, 25 November 2016


GHB: The killer drug

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The Metropolitan Police has said it will examine 58 GHB-related deaths, following the conviction of serial killer Stephen Port.

BBC News, 25 November 2016


Club drug testing 'may be useful'

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A leading police chief says recreational drug testing "may be very useful". Commander Bray is in discussion with the government about it.

Newsbeat, 24 November 2016


MPs call for cannabis legalisation

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Britain should follow America's lead and legalise cannabis, and rake in £1 billion a year in tax revenues

Metro, 21 November 2016


Pharma's fight to block marijuana

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Marijuana legalization will unleash misery on Arizona, according to a wave of television ads that started rolling out across the state last month.

Guardian, 22 October 2016


10 years for cannabis for cancer

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Police in Denmark have arrested a man and woman on suspicion of providing cannabis to cancer patients and people with other serious illnesses.

Independent, 5 October 2016

UK National Drugs helpline: 0300 123 6600

The National Drugs Helpline is a 24-hour, 7-days a week, free and confidential telephone service that offers advice and information for anyone.

It is run by the government agency, known as FRANK, created to provide drug support and advice for the public.

If you need emergency help, are worried about a friend or relative's drug use or want support coping with your own, contact FRANK on-line contact or by phone.

11 Real Reasons Why Teenagers Experiment with Drugs

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There is a common misconception that teenagers who experiment with drugs and alcohol are inherently "bad kids".

Many parents assume that teenagers experiment because they are rebellious and want to lash out. That may be the reason a small percentage of teenagers try drugs and alcohol today, but the dangerous trend is not that simple or one-sided. Understanding is the first step to helping.

DrugAbuse.com, January 2017

Australia's losing battle with prescription drugs

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It was the absence of two phone calls, 16 years apart, that signalled the start and tragic end of Simon Millington's struggle with prescription drug addiction.

As midnight approached, his mother, Margaret Millington, began to panic as she waited for the call to explain his absence, usually made without fail.

"When it got to 4am or 5am, I knew something was wrong," Margaret says.

Guardian, 20 December 2016

Make heroin available on prescription, official UK drug advisers say

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Heroin on prescription and supervised injecting rooms are among a range of measures that the government's drug advisers have suggested to reverse the UK's soaring numbers of drug deaths.

Responding to a sharp rise in the number of heroin-related deaths in recent years, the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs said maintenance of drug treatment programmes was essential to prevent further increases.

Guardian, 12 December 2016

Pills that kill: why are thousands dying from fentanyl abuse?

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Natasha Butler had never heard of fentanyl until a doctor told her that a single pill had pushed her eldest son to the brink of death, and wasn't coming back.

"The doctor said fentanyl is 100 times more potent than morphine and 50 times more potent than heroin. How did Jerome get it?" she asked as the tears came. "Jerome was on a respirator and unresponsive. The doctor told me all his organs had shut down. If he makes it he'll be a vegetable."

Guardian, 11 December 2016

Power of psychedelic drugs to lift mental distress shown in trials

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When Aldous Huxley was dying in 1963, he asked his wife to inject him with LSD, and he passed away, she wrote afterwards, without any of the pain and distress that cancer can cause in the final hours.

Huxley, who wrote The Doors of Perception about his experience of taking the psychedelic drug mescaline, anticipated just such a death in his last novel, Island.

Guardian, 2 December 2016

Drug deaths hit record levels

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Drug-related deaths in England and Wales have hit record levels, official statistics show.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) figures reveal that a total of 3,674 drug poisoning deaths involving legal and illegal substances were recorded in 2015, up from 3,346 in 2014 and the most since records began in 1993.

Independent, 9 September 2016

The undercover cop who abandoned the war on drugs

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Walking beside me through a market town centre is a lean, healthy, 46-year-old man. "So, you wanted me to show you how I used to look?" He draws in his stomach, rounds his shoulders, paws imaginary sweat from his cheeks, and suddenly I'm looking at a junkie - jumpy, wheedling, begging for a fix. "And this is how you walk when you're going to score heroin." Subtly hunched over a sunken midriff, he strides ahead, as fast as he can without breaking into a run. "It's all in the stomach," he grins when I've caught up.

Guardian, 26 August 2016

Britain's online drugs market proves "futility of the war on drugs"

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The UK has Europe's largest online market for drugs proving the "futility of the war on drugs". After investigating eight of the world's largest "dark web" market places, researchers found that the UK's online drugs trade dwarfed that of other European countries and was second in size only to that of the US.

UK dark web sellers were doing 20,748 deals worth £1.8m a month, nearly double the 11,039 worth £920,000 in Europe's 2nd largest market, Germany.

Independent, 10 August 2016

Can You Get Over an Addiction?

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I shot heroin and cocaine while attending Columbia in the 1980s, sometimes many times a day and leaving scars. I kept using, even after I was suspended from school, after I overdosed and even after I was arrested for dealing.

My parents were devastated. They couldn't understand what had happened to their "gifted" child. They kept hoping I would just somehow stop, even though every time I tried to quit, I relapsed within months.

New York Times, 25 June 2016

The Times calls for decriminalisation of all illegal drugs

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Newspaper breaks new ground by declaring itself in favour of treating drug use and possession as a health issue rather than a crime.

The Times has boldly gone where few newspapers - and very, very few politicians - have ever dared to go before by declaring itself in favour of legalising drugs in Britain. The paper has supported a call by the Royal Society for Public Health to decriminalise the possession and use of illegal drugs.

Guardian, 16 June 2016

New drug W18 is '10,000 times more powerful than morphine'

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A new drug considered to be 10,000 times more powerful than morphine has hit the market in the US after being discovered in Canada.

The synthetic opiate W-18 is a psychoactive substance and opioid similar to heroin, but is 100 times more powerful than fentanyl.

It is now making its way to the US at a time when fentanyl-related deaths in Canada continue to rise.

Independent, 4 May 2016

Drug addiction should be treated like a learning disorder and not a crime

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Since entering recovery 28 years ago, I've spent a lots of time thinking about addiction. The most common definition is "compulsive drug use despite negative consequences". It's odd then, that we use punishment to stop it.

During my addiction to heroin and cocaine, I kept using despite being suspended from University. I kept injecting despite losing friends. I kept on despite the risk of death, disease, family disappointment and the stigma.

Guardian, 5 April 2016

Norway to sentence some drug addicts to treatment rather than prison

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Norway's courts will now be able to sentence drug-addicted convicts to treatment programmes instead of sending them to jail. Following trials in Bergen and Oslo, the programme is being introduced nationwide.

Announcing the expansion of the programme, Justice Minister Anders Andundsen said: "We're rolling out a program that has been tested since 2006, in which addicts have been sentenced to treatment with concrete follow-up."

Independent, 14 February 2016

How the Epidemic of Drug Overdose Deaths Ripples Across America

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Deaths from drug overdoses have jumped in nearly every county across the United States, driven largely by an explosion in addiction to prescription painkillers and heroin.

Some of the largest concentrations of overdose deaths were in Appalachia and the Southwest, according to new county-level estimates released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

New York Times, 19 January 2016

Students used to take drugs to get high. Now they use for higher grades

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It's still more than three months until finals, but there's a whiff of panic in the air of the Edinburgh student flat where I'm having dinner. "Everybody's feeling it," says Suzy. Feeling what? "The pressure. There's just so much pressure."

"Everything. I shouldn't even be here. I didn't even want to go to university but everyone said I should. And the work! It's just... there's so much of it! I feel like I wouldn't even have a chance if it wasn't for modafinil."

Guardian, 15 May 2015

Drugs seized at schools from hundreds of pupils - police

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Hundreds of schoolchildren, among them a pupil of only eight, have been caught with drugs on school premises, new figures reveal. Class-A drugs such as heroin and crack cocaine were among the illegal substances seized, according to the data from police in England and Wales.

There were more than 2,000 incidents dating back to 2011, suggest figures. Teachers described the statistics as a "worry" and the "tip of the iceberg".

BBC News, 23 April 2015

The Great Debate: Alcohol vs Marijuana

the debate about whether alcohol or cannabis is more harmful continues

Drinking alcohol is not fatal unless people consume too much alcohol. The CDC reports that nearly 88,000 alcohol-related deaths occur each year, and binge drinking accounted for about half the deaths.

By comparison, the number of deaths caused by marijuana is almost zero. A study found that a fatal dose of TCH, the potent chemical in marijuana, would be between 238 and 1,113 joints in a day to overdose on marijuana.

Drugabuse.com, 2015

The positives and negatives: How marijuana affects mind and body

deciding to use cannabis should be done only after considering both the negative and positive 
                side effects of the drug

Recently legalised in the Washington and Colorado, marijuana has medical and recreational uses but can also be damaging. The high from marijuana comes from Tetrahydrocannabinol, which is found in varying potency.

Most of THC's effects happen in the brain, where the chemical interacts with cannibinoid receptors in the brain. Our bodies make chemicals similar to THC andTHC co-opts these natural pathways to produce most of its effects.

The Journal, 11 January 2014

I threw out my drug-taking son

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Matthew Smith was heavily into drugs. He was dodging school and creating havoc at home. One day he went too far and his mother threw him out.

"By day I was the mummy of a sweet little girl, baking cakes with her, reading her stories," she says. Once Lydia was in bed. "I'd start worrying about Matthew, my teenager. Often I wouldn't have seen him all day but I knew exactly what he was up to. He was taking drugs.

Guardian, 1 June 2013

Parents Understanding Drugs