UK has become a breeding ground for addiction issues, say rehab experts

“Economic downturns are associated with increases in suicide rates. They also increase the risk of depression, anxiety and alcohol use”. – WHO 2022 World Mental Health Report

People still talk about certain drugs as gateways to others. These are often Class C drugs such as steroids, benzos, or legal highs. But addiction rehabilitation service Rehabs UK says that it is wrong to suggest that these are the root cause of addiction issues, or of wider substance abuse.

In a new report, ‘The real gateway drugs in the UK’, Rehabs UK notes that:

– Mental health issues and financial insecurity are two of the biggest issues connected with substance misuse.

– Housing issues and domestic violence are secondary ‘gateway drugs’ that continue to drive addiction and ruin lives.

– Among all substances, alcohol is the most damaging; 64% of adults entering treatment for substance issues in 2022 had a problem with alcohol.

Recent ONS data on drug misuse in England and Wales shows that those on the lowest incomes are more likely than others to take drugs, with 15% of people earning less than £10,400 saying they had taken drugs in 2022 compared to a national average of 9%. In Scotland, figures from The Poverty Alliance show that people in the most deprived communities are 18 times more likely to experience problem drug use than those in the least deprived communities.

Even before the cost of living crisis, roughly 20% of the UK’s population was living in poverty – the equivalent of 13.4million people. With food bank use rising 40% in 2022 and estimates suggesting that a further 1.3million people have been plunged into poverty by the energy crisis this winter, ‘The real gateway drugs’ report calls for better government funding for drug and alcohol intervention services, along with greater investment in social housing and employability support.

“Among adults living in high-income countries, drug use disorders tend to be more prevalent among those who experience socioeconomic disadvantage, which is most frequently measured in terms of low educational level, low income level or unstable employment status, or a combination of these factors” – UN Office on Drugs and Crime, World Drug Report

In England, four of the five cities with the highest rates of alcohol dependency are also severely deprived areas, according to government figures published in January 2023. Across the UK, the poorest areas are also often the worst-off when it comes to healthcare inequality – due to a combination of poverty-driven pre-existing health conditions and difficulty accessing primary health care and other essential services. Government and ONS data notes that:

– 70% of adults starting addiction treatment in 2022 had mental health needs, compared to a national average of 30%

– 22% of these were not receiving any kind of treatment

– 21% of adults who report low levels of happiness day to day tried drugs in 2022, compared to 8% whose happiness is ‘very high’

– 16% of those whose satisfaction with life was low used drugs in 2022, compared to 5% who said it was ‘very high’

The Rehabs UK report states “we see first-hand that some of the biggest underlying issues in people who misuse alcohol or other substances are a lack of mental health support and/or unresolved trauma”, with founder and director Lester Morse going on to say:

“Substance use disorders are symptoms of a systemic, socioeconomic type of disease. We cannot hope to eradicate addiction until we treat the deeper issues affecting our society, and until we provide meaningful and comprehensive mental health care to everyone that needs it.” – Lester Morse, Director, Rehabs UK

You can find out more by reading the full report at

About Rehabs UK: Rehabs UK is a free and confidential addiction recovery support service. From drug and alcohol addictions through to behavioural addictions such as gambling, the Rehabs UK team provides free advice to addicts and their friends and families. Rehabs UK offers both NHS and private referrals.

About Lisa Baker, Editor, Wellbeing News 4416 Articles
Editor Lisa Baker is passionate about the benefits of a holistic approach to healing. Lisa is a qualified Vibrational Therapist and has qualifications in Auricular Therapy, Massage, Kinesiology, Crystal Healing, Seichem and is a Reiki Master.