Responding to recent headlines, Birmingham Director of Public Health, Dr Adrian Phillips, takes a look at the issue of legal highs.
I want to talk about legal highs or rather I want to talk about one particular legal high.
I’m referring to a freely available substance that causes major health problems, destroys families and costs the Birmingham economy around £30 million a year.
No, I’m not talking about the current tabloid favourite ‘hippy crack’ or whatever new substance becomes the main focus of sensationalist coverage.
I’m talking about alcohol.
In Birmingham, 25 per cent of men and 17 per cent of women in the city are drinking above safe limits and the damage caused by alcohol misuse includes:
- At peak times, up to 70 per cent of all admissions to accident and emergency departments in Birmingham are related to alcohol;
- 3,600 incidents of domestic violence are linked to alcohol misuse;
Up to 170,000 working days are lost through alcohol-related absence, costing the city’s economy about £30 million each year;
- About 20,000 children in Birmingham are affected by parental alcohol problems;
- Marriages where there are alcohol problems are twice as likely to end in divorce;
- In 2009, half of all 11 to 15-year-olds in the city had already had an alcoholic drink;
- Parental alcohol misuse has been identified as a factor in more than 500 child protection cases.
Those statistics represent a hell of a lot of human misery and the scale of booze-related problems absolutely dwarves issues caused by other ‘legal highs’.
I wouldn’t for one minute dismiss individual stories like that of 20-year-old Jordan Blackburn from Cumbria who was put into an induced coma after taking legal highs at a festival or the stories of legal high related deaths that we’ve seen in recent years.
These stories are often tragic and of course have a huge impact on the families and communities involved.
But the scale of tragedies pales into insignificance when compared to the misery caused by alcohol.
Now before anyone suggests I’m calling for alcohol to be banned, I’m not. Many people enjoy a drink in moderation and I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with that.
But I think we need a little perspective. By any definition alcohol is a legal high. It might not be attracting the coverage currently being given to other ‘trendier’ substances, but as a society, we have an extremely unhealthy relationship with booze.
How to get help
Help is available though and Reach Out Recovery offers free and confidential treatment and recovery services to support anyone experiencing difficulties with drugs and/or alcohol in a range of local community settings across Birmingham.
In addition to help for individuals affected by alcohol and/or drugs, Reach Out Recovery provides support for families and carers.
And yes, we can also help if you’re affected by legal highs.
So how do you contact Reach Out Recovery?
Registering is easy. Call 0121 227 5890 to discuss the appropriate options available to you.
You can also pop in to any open access point across Birmingham, look out for the Reach Out Recovery window stickers in your local community.
If you’re worried about someone else, call 0121 227 5890 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. The service also takes referrals from all professionals including GPs, pharmacies and social workers.