Don’t underestimate the role of childhood experiences in the development of substance use issues.

In the words of Tony Adams MBE at the NHS SMPA conference last month, “you don’t just become an addict”. 

No one wakes up one morning and decides they want to develop issues with alcohol or drugs. Instead, in the case of Tony Adams MBE and many others, adverse childhood experiences or trauma have a huge impact in later life: 

“I was very shy as a kid, full of fear. All trauma, I shoved it in a box and buried it.” 

At a certain point, burying it is no longer possible, and another ‘solution’ is needed. For people with alcohol and substance use issues, part of the ‘solution’ is the self-prescribing of alcohol and/or drugs.

Today is World Mental Health Awareness Day and, this year, the focus is on children and young people’s mental health. According to the World Health Organisation, half of all mental illness begins by the age of 14, and, unsurprisingly, the “harmful use of alcohol and illicit drugs among adolescents is a major issue”. 

This clearly shows the need for an increase in preventative and early intervention mental health support for children and young people but also highlights again the difficult relationship between mental health and substance use, and the value of psychosocial interventions in supporting people with substance use issues. 

As well as ensuring a variety of quality psychosocial and pharmacological interventions are available to service users, we are committed to helping to reduce the continuing stigma around mental health, and to educate our staff and other practitioners on the interdependence between substance use and mental health. 

Find out more about World Mental Health day