Alcohol is killing more teenagers than all others drugs combined in the UK – a shocking statistic.
According to Addaction, alcohol misuse is the biggest risk factor for death, ill-health and disability among 15-49 year-olds in the UK.
It’s the fifth biggest risk factor across all ages.
The problem of alcohol, or rather the misuse of the substance, is affecting thousands of people across Britain, often starting at a young age.
Nearly every person I spoke to admitted to drinking regularly while under the legal age limit of 18-years-old.
Usually, it was a case of spending your weekends, or summer holidays, drinking cheap cider and beer in the park with friends.
This is mirrored by research carried out by Drinkaware in 2016, who found half of 13-17 year olds drink, with most having their first taste of alcohol between the ages of 13 and 15.
As we get older and frequent pubs and clubs, most of us are able to continue our relationship with alcohol in a responsible way.
However, this isn’t the case for an increasing number of youngsters and Public Health England say 59,382 men and 33,176 women aged between 18-24 are alcohol dependent – a number equivalent to the population of Worcester.
Byron, a 31-year-old from Birmingham currently battling alcohol addiction, is an example of how addiction can affect anyone.
Speaking to UNILAD, Byron admitted re-telling his story was challenging, saying he found it ‘tough’ to pinpoint exactly when and where his problems began:
I think my first experience of drinking was when I had a bottle of gin at the age of 13.
It made me sick as a dog and put me off drinking for a long time!
It was a good thing really as after this experience I wasn’t one of the typical kids in my area who were going out to the park to go drinking every weekend with friends – I didn’t want to go near the stuff!
Yet heading into his later teens, Byron admitted underage drinking became a normal occurance and was something easily accessible:
I’d grown up a bit and my brother ran various pubs and clubs, so at the age of 16 I was able to drink in his place under his watchful eye.
This then led to my mates and I drinking in our local town most weekends – regardless of whether we had work the next morning, it was never an issue.
At the age of 16, coping with hangovers was done with ease.
In terms of binge-drinking or drinking challenges, this was something Byron says was never part of his social behaviour, especially when out with friends:
I wasn’t a stand out drinker or anything like that. We were typical pub lads drinking in the same place, week-in, week-out.
I loved every minute of it and never, for one second, thought I was over-doing it, or there was even a problem.
So at what point does someone’s relationship with the drug change?
Scott Haines, who heads the Amy Winehouse Resilience Programme for Addaction, told UNILAD:
I think peer pressure can relate not just to someone being offered or forced to take something, but is just as much about the pressures that young people can feel to fit in with their peer groups and perhaps to be part of a crowd.
I would say drug or alcohol use can often be a way in which many people seek to cope with a range of problems and stresses.
As such, young people might be particularly vulnerable to harmful drug or alcohol use if they have issues with low self esteem or things going on either at home or in school.
The extent of this vulnerability in such cases may depend on factors such as the young person’s own resilience and which protective factors might be present.
Many young people will of course find more positive ways to cope than simply turning to drugs or alcohol, however our experience shows that some of course do.
In Byron’s case, there was a turning point in his life – despite moving away at the age of 18 and not touching a sip of the stuff for months – personal problems, as with many people, took a toll.
In 2008 I had a relationship break down and got arrested for drink-driving – this was the start of my relationship changing with alcohol.
After, I started a new job and began working with a guy who I worshipped – he had the big fancy car, flash suits, loads of money and drink came hand-in-hand with the lifestyle – this is where I feel I lost control.
Everywhere we went involved alcohol and drinking – I was young, earning good money, had a house. I wasn’t driving, but I had a licence to kill.
Personal problems became even worse when Byron answered the phone one day:
I got an unexpected phone call, completely out of the blue and was told my mum was dying. She was dying because of alcohol. At this point, I fell off big time.
I’d drink from the second I woke up to the second I fell asleep. I wouldn’t eat. I wouldn’t sleep – all I wanted to do was block it out and drink.
Everything spiralled and I was no longer a ‘social-drinker’. I was dependent on the drug day-to-day.
If I could find any sort of justification to drink, then I would and this carried on for years.
I went through relationship after relationship, went from job to job and yet, despite my mother passing away, it was only when I got to the ripe old age of 30, I thought enough is enough.
Speaking about his mother, Byron said:
My mum was a drinker – a heavy drinker – she used to go through times of no drinking and then times of heavy drinking.
Eventually the death of my grandma and her having to look after my grandad got the better of her – she was drinking way more than any of us knew.
Eventually she went to hospital feeling over bloated and never came out.
The death certificate states cirrhosis of the liver – she was past help once we’d all realised.
Byron, who is now 31, is on his personal journey to recovery – one tailored to him.
Addaction – a service who offer help and support for those in need of positive behavioural changes, whether it’s with alcohol, drugs, or mental health and well-being, told UNILAD every recovery journey is different.
Alcohol affects people differently depending on their gender, age and health. The way to recover from an issue with alcohol depends on the individual; every recovery journey is different.
At Addaction we know it’s important to have support from professionals and also from people who have experienced dependency issues.
Therefore the support we offer combines one to one sessions, group work and peer support and aims to not only manage alcohol use, but tackle any underlying emotional issues that have led to the addiction.
Gary recovered with the support of Addaction Chy and his experience led him to become an engagement worker, helping people in the same situation he once was in.
You can check out Gary’s story below:
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Addaction state they are there to help people improve their lives in ways they never thought possible, telling UNILAD:
Part of a recovery journey focuses on building up emotional resilience and support networks so you’re better placed to face issues if they come up again.
Whether someone is able to use alcohol again in a safe way, is individual to that person and is influenced by many different factors.
Addiction is a health issue that many of us, from all walks of life, experience, butut people recover every day.
If you have any queries or concerns, Addaction have a confidential web chat on their website which you can find here.