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1.2 Million People Addicted to Drugs in UK

New research shows that more than 1.2 million people over age 18 in the UK have been addicted to illegal drugs. According to the UK’s Guardian, a survey commissioned by DrugScope, an independent organization that maps trends in the supply and use of illicit substances, found that 19 percent of people polled had “personal experience of drug addiction” either directly or among family or friends.

The research suggests that while drug addiction is not on the rise in the UK, the number of people whose lives are affected by addiction is considerably higher than many people imagine.

About 11 percent of people knew a friend who was addicted to drugs, 6 percent had a family member who is or was addicted, and 2 percent (representing more than 1.2 million adults nationally) had experienced drug dependency themselves.

"Our research shows that drug dependency is something that's close to home for many people," said Martin Barnes, chief executive of DrugScope, who suggested that the figures indicate how drugs are a problem for all of society.

"Every drug user is someone's daughter or somebody's son," he said. "It may be hard for a lot of people to reconcile the 'junkies' of many a headline with the person they know and love who has struggled with drug dependency."

The DrugScope survey also found that addiction affects people in all socio-economic states. Eighteen percent of those who were affected by addiction were from the higher social class AB, compared with 20 percent in the lower-middle class C1 and 14 percent in the skilled working class C2.

The figures were much higher among younger people, with more than 27 percent of respondents aged between 18 and 34 admitting to direct or indirect experience with drug addiction.

DrugScope said it commissioned the poll to question the common perception that addicts are the “architects of their own misfortune.” Four-fifths of those questioned agreed that “people can become addicted to drugs because of problems in their lives,” whereas only 35 percent said that “there is no excuse for drug addiction—it is always the individual’s fault.”

Eighty-eight percent of respondents agreed that people who are addicted to drugs need help and support to get their lives back on track, and 77 percent said that investing in drug treatment is a sensible use of the government’s money.

“It's encouraging that the majority of respondents understood that someone's drug dependence will often stem from other problems in their life and agreed that drug treatment should be available to all those who need it," Barnes said.

Last week, a survey revealed that 974,000 people in England and Wales used cocaine in the past year. The British Crime Survey said there are now about 439,000 cocaine users in their late teens and early 20s, up by 1.5 percent in the last 12 months. Nearly 50,000 had used crack cocaine, while an estimated 41,000 people were regular users of heroin or methadone.

Barnes said that a shift in society’s attitude toward drug addicts would help improve their chances of recovery.

"For many people trying to break free of addiction, stigma and discrimination remain a major barrier to recovery and may impact on their chances of getting into work, being housed or accessing proper health care.” Barnes said.

“The government's commitment to supporting problem drug users requires action to tackle stigmatizing and discriminatory attitudes."

Posted on July 28th, 2009

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