Saturday 22 October 2016

Addiction affects every level of society, not just working class - expert

Tony Duffin of Ana Liffey Project
Tony Duffin of Ana Liffey Project

Drug addiction is not solely a problem affecting working class areas, but something that wealthy parents need to watch out for too, according to a leading drug treatment group.

The reality that addiction does not discriminate was highlighted this week by celebrity hairdresser David Marshall, who spoke candidly about how his son died from a heroin overdose in 2014.

Speaking only days after the inquest into the death of 25-year-old Daniel Marshall, his heartbroken father pleaded with other parents to be hands-on with their children and not to take their eye off the ball.


Talking about drug use today, Tony Duffin of the Ana Liffey Drug Project was anxious to stress that there are risks of addiction and exposure to drugs in all levels of society.

"People take drugs because of how they feel, not because of what they know or don't know," he told the Herald.

"Speaking in general terms and not in relation to any specific case, it can start as a recreational thing and develop into a problem.

"The rough breakdown of figures would indicate that 10pc of people who end up in addiction do so from this route of recreational use.

"People sometimes make the mistake of associating drug addiction with poverty. It is largely true, but certainly not exclusive. Addiction happens across the spectrum."

Mr Duffin said it was equally important to stress that even in environments where you might expect addiction to drugs to be more prevalent, not every young person ends up with an addiction problem.

According to a study by the National Advisory Committee on Drugs entitled Risk and Protection Factors for Substance Use Among Young People, there are clear links between the use of different kinds of substances.

Smoking cigarettes increases the likelihood of drinking alcohol and using cannabis; drinking alcohol is associated with a greater likelihood of smoking cigarettes; and using cannabis has a strong effect on the odds of taking other drugs.

Factors that influence the chances of drug-taking include a young person's perception of themselves, their relationship with their family, peers and school and where they live.

The study found that the behaviour of other family members is of considerable importance. Where another family member has used drugs in the past month, this increases the risk of a school student taking drugs by a factor that ranges between two and four.

Having a positive school experience was also found to be crucial to the prevention of substance use. This factor, moving from the lowest to the highest values of the scale, makes it 10 times less likely for school students to use drugs other than cannabis over their lifetime.

The use of drugs is also strongly correlated with substance use among a young person's peers. Where most or all friends use cannabis, use of other drugs by early school-leavers increases by a factor of about three.


Where most or all friends use other drugs apart from cannabis, the likelihood of the young person to also use these drugs increases four-fold or five-fold.

Basically, where best friends use drugs, this raises the likelihood of using these substances three-fold.

Parental concern has a very strong protective effect, reducing the likelihood of a young person drinking alcohol or using cannabis by a factor of around 10.

This is a powerful reminder that parental concern and involvement, as well as monitoring, are highly effective in protecting young adults against substance use, the 2010 study found.

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