Substance abuse help calls on rise over Christmas period

Swansea Drugs project has seen the number of cases involving youngsters under-18s double over the last year
Image caption Swansea Drugs Project has seen the number of cases involving youngsters under-18s double over the last year

Alcohol and drug centres say they are expecting an increase in the number of people turning to them for help over the festive period.

Three of the biggest services in Wales - Cais in north Wales, Inroads in Cardiff and Swansea Drugs Project - all have staff on hand offering outreach and support services.

They say the situation is not helped by the current economic climate.

But they pointed to relapses and alcohol as being the biggest issues.

"Christmas can be difficult for people with serious drug and alcohol problems," said Clive Wolfendale, chief executive of Cais, who said he sees people of all ages with problems.

"There are three reasons why the season is so difficult.

"It's a time when people are expected to be enjoying themselves and that often means lots of drinking going on.

'Regret and failure'

"Trying to avoid that when it's the most damaging thing in the world is difficult when you are surrounded by it.

"Christmas for many people is also about families and relationships.

"This is denied to many people in our client group because they are separate from families or lose contact or maybe a family has been wrecked by substance misuse.

"Then the feeling of regret and failure is accentuated. People often relapse at this time of year.

"What we try to do is make sure there are people to turn to over the Christmas period.

"Alcohol definitely surpasses the drug problems by some margin."

Mr Wolfendale's views are backed up by Swansea Drugs Project director Ifor Glyn.

He says heroin is the main drug problem in the city but there has been a notable increase in alcohol use among all ages.

The project dealt with 30% more substance misuse cases over the last year, of which almost 70% was alcohol-related.

"From now until the end of January, we will see a lot of people," he said.

"The difficult part when you take alcohol and drugs away from people when they are used to taking it, it leaves a massive void in their lives and we have to find something to replace it."

Mr Glyn said educational and healthy living programmes were the type of things that are offered to those seeking help.

'Entrenched and problematic'

He added that the number of cases involving youngsters under-18 had almost doubled in the last year to 101, and work on education in schools has quadrupled.

Ross Woodfield, young person substance misuse worker at Inroads, said youngsters' drug or alcohol use is usually "entrenched and problematic".

"They will be out there not knowing how to deal with the problem or be in denial," he said.

"The numbers have increased and frequently new people are coming along.

"Christmas does have an impact and this time of year you will get family crises - it's often after Christmas.

"There are people who are worried that their drinking or drug taking is going to increase.

"As to whether the recession will create more problems, it probably will."

Mr Wolfendale has called for a clampdown on the availability and promotion of alcohol.

"If you are seeking a substance to escape whatever it is, then rather than heroin, cannabis or cocaine, the cheapest way to do it is to through alcohol," he said.

"It is socially acceptable and widely promoted. There needs a wake-up call to do something about it."

The UK government has introduced a ban on the sale of alcohol for less than cost price, which will come into force in England and Wales in April 2012.

Last month, the Scottish government made a second bid to bring in legislation which will set a minimum price for a unit of alcohol. It has already put in place a ban on "irresponsible" drinks promotions.

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