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Rising number of UK youngsters battling subtance abuse problems, says Central YMCA

Youth charity, Central YMCA, has warned of the increasing harm caused by legal and illegal highs, after UK youngsters cited substance abuse as one of the biggest threats facing them today.

Recent research by the charity placed issues relating to substance abuse fifth in a list of 19 challenges facing young people, scoring 78/100 on a scale of key issues – coming only behind challenges relating to employment, education and body image.

More worryingly, it was also amongst the top five issues UK youngsters said they believed would become progressively worse for the next generation of young adults (those that are currently aged 11 – 15).

Speaking to over 1600 16 – 25 year olds for its ‘World of Good’ report, the charity also found that health issues, including mental health were cited by many as one of the top barriers to overcoming the challenges facing them.

The report follows a number of increased instances of drug use in the UK, particularly amongst young people – almost one in three (31%) of the UK adult population have taken illegal drugs, up from 27% in 2008, according to the British Drugs Survey 2014.

Commenting on the findings Rosi Prescott, CEO at Central YMCA, said:

“The use of drugs – both legal and illegal – in the UK is increasing, and we’re finding that more and more young people are coming to us with substance abuse issues. Over half of all active drug users in the UK are aged between 16 – 34, which poses a huge challenge. The issue with substance abuse is that it can be a long time before users even realise they have an issue. Often people who are at risk of being dependent, or indeed are already dependent, can fail to see it.

“The adversity young people face when dealing with substance abuse issues is something we look to tackle in a number of our initiatives here at Central YMCA. Isolating these people and attaching stigmas to them is unhelpful, and can lead to further issues down the line – we’ve seen these people having to deal with family breakdown, health issues, and struggling to find employment, amongst other problems.

“The issues recognised in our World of Good report were wide and far reaching. It’s now up for agencies and people working with these young people to work to deal with these issues in the round, not in isolation.”

Studies quoted in the report reveal that 81% of people who have ever taken drugs did so before the age of 21, with 23% doing so before they were 16.

There is also evidence that intoxication increases risks of unwelcome sexual approaches, with one in five drug users saying they had been taken advantage of after drug or alcohol use.