Britain and the United Kingdom — News on Drinking and Other Substance Abuse

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Britain and the United Kingdom — News on Drinking and Other Substance Abuse

British pub.jpgIt’s been awhile since I wrote about drinking and substance abuse problems overseas, but not for lack of material.

In the United Kingdom, drinking among young people has become a terrible, or terribly dangerous, problem. The number of young people drinking has decreased somewhat in recent years, as in the U.S. (where more young people are smoking pot), but the behavior is simply out of hand, according to a New York Times article.

“Partying Until Drunk and Disorderly in Britain,” about what’s happening in Northampton, England, tells the story. Young people are often going out in packs to get “thoroughly, blindingly, and often violently drunk,” according to a policeman interviewed. To save money, the youths drink cheap liquor before they go to the bars, and many are already drunk by the time they arrive. The police chief said that Northampton’s young people are looking for entertainment. No different from what young people in the U.S. do, it’s true, and drunk and disorderly young Americans get into trouble, too.

But this article holds that it’s not just bothersome to see Britain’s youth wandering the streets bloody after fighting, throwing up, crying, and dressed inappropriately for the freezing cold. Inebriated women are occasionally molested or raped.  To the east of the city, a house party that got out of control sent three people to the hospital. One was missing part of his nose, and another’s arm had almost been amputated.  Understandably, the drinking has become an issue of growing social importance, the authors of this article said, and the police are taking stronger action.

These young people’s behavior (those ages 15 to 24) — binge drinking on weekends only — is different from older generations, according to the article, and even different from  the way Americans drink, according to one of the policemen who once worked for the L.A. Police Department. (I don’t know that the majority of Americans would agree with that, however. The former L.A. policeman should visit some of the shore towns near where I live. Add to that the TV program called Jersey Shore that glorified a bunch of young people drinking south of where I live.) But I digress.

The United Kingdom’s older citizens are causing problems, too, in a different way. According to an article in the Independent, a U.K. newspaper, record numbers of “pensioners” (those over 65) are ending up in the hospital “after recreational drug use.”  Specifically, the article headline said that three times as many people are going to the “A&E,” the Accident and Emergency, or what we call the ER, than they were ten years ago.

The article seemed to point to pot, cocaine, and amphetamines as the main culprits, and to the reason for the increase as the “free love” attitude and the experimentation with drugs that this generation grew up with. (Over half of hospital admissions for overdosing have involved people over 75 who were in their 20’s in the 1960’s. An expert from the National Drug Prevention Alliance said that many have been doing drugs their entire life.)

The article sounded a warning for U.K. treatment centers, saying that they better be prepared for this “aging client group” and have the resources to treat them.  So, just as our health system is being taxed by the drug problem in the U.S., the U.K. is experiencing a burden on its health system.


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