Drugs and Alcohol

Using drugs and alcohol to escape from problems

Young people sometimes use drugs or alcohol to escape from their home, or personal, problems. Friends may suggest that coming out for a night's drinking or smoking a spliff might help if they’re feeling down.
Family problems
Some of the young people we talked to had been through difficult situations at home and had used illegal drugs or alcohol to ‘escape’, or try to forget what was going on in their lives. The experience of growing up with an alcoholic father made it difficult for Chloe to live a ‘normal’ life when she was at school with her friends. She felt more mature than others her age and this made her feel different and distant from them. Sophie was kicked out of the family home by her violent stepfather And Steph was put into care because of her mother's heroin addiction. She thinks that young people who grow up seeing their parents addicted to drugs and alcohol often go on to abuse drugs and alcohol themselves.
Michelle, Sophie and Tara felt that they were not well supported by their families, they said that their mothers weren’t interested in them or were ‘too strict’. They relied more on their friends to listen to their problems and offer support but they would regularly drink alcohol and take drugs together. See also Family relationships, drugs and alcohol.

Some of the young people we spoke to said they drank or took drugs as a result of being in difficult relationships. Tara had previously been bullied due to her weight issues and had low self-esteem so was thrilled when she got an older boyfriend. He and his friends made her feel under pressure to take drugs. Charlie and Mary-Ann also took drugs to forget the problems in their relationships.
Depression and other emotions
Depression and low mood were often mentioned as reasons for drinking alcohol or taking drugs. Alex suffered from depression and anxiety, he used alcohol to feel secure and to build up his confidence. Sam said that he often felt ‘down’ as a teenager and wonders if his depression was triggered by the use of drugs, or if it was the other way around. Craig has experienced depression since he was twelve but one of his main reasons for using drugs was ‘rebelling’ against his diabetes - something he has lived with since he was a baby. Feeling lonely, insecure and like they didn’t ‘fit in’ at school also affected some of the young people we spoke to. See Drugs and mental health for more information on the link between drugs and depression.
Feeling uncertain about the future
Some felt that they drank alcohol and took drugs because they were unsure ‘who they were’ as people and didn’t have any plans for the future.  
'Addictive' personalities
Some people had come to the conclusion that they have an ‘addictive personality’. Harry said that he lacks control compared with others who can take drugs in moderation and he described his drug use as ‘all or nothing’. Daniel described himself as the ‘classic drug addict, alcoholic, nicotine addict, sex addict’. He said that he is aware of a pattern of mental health problems in his family but that there was little in his upbringing and background that could explain his addictive behaviour.
Do drugs and alcohol help with problems?
Some people found that the feeling of relaxation they got from cannabis helped them to concentrate and work through problems. Peter thinks that he comes up with some of his best solutions to work-related problems, after he has had a smoke in the evening.
However, through their experiences, the people we talked to had learned that using drugs or alcohol doesn’t solve difficult family, relationship or emotional problems. They said that people who are having problems should keep away from drugs and alcohol because it could make things worse (see Advice to other young people).

Last reviewed: July 2018.
Last updated: January 2015.


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