Drugs and Alcohol

Culture, drugs and alcohol

We spoke to young people aged 16-26 about their reasons for drinking alcohol and using cannabis and Class A drugs.  People often said that they didn't really know, or had never really thought about it, but reasons generally fell into four categories:
  • Culture - the way of life in the UK or the culture of particular minority groups was said to affect whether young people used alcohol or drugs.
  • Social life - in social situations like parties, people said that alcohol or drugs can increase their confidence and enjoyment.
  • Pressure from friends - people said that they felt pressure to ‘fit in’ with friends by drinking or taking drugs.
  • Escaping from problems - drugs and alcohol could be used to get away from feeling depressed or from problems at home or in their personal lives.
In this section we talk about the way that culture impacts on drinking and drugs.

Alcohol and culture
Most young people in Britain grow up in households where parents regularly drink alcohol. People who’d spent time abroad sometimes wondered why the British drink so much compared to the French, for example.
Some said that alcohol is everywhere in the UK and everything seems to be telling them to drink. They gave the following examples:
  • Adverts always show glamorous young people drinking (but not 45 year old alcoholics, as one girl pointed out),
  • Many British soap operas have a pub as the main meeting place for the community.
  • Alcohol is used to celebrate achievements, special occasions and birthdays.
  • Social events with work colleagues are likely to involve drinking
  • University social life revolves around drinking.
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People felt that culture in the UK gives the message that drinking alcohol is a normal and a fun activity to be enjoyed with family and friends.  Alcohol is also cheap and easily available. Being caught drinking underage doesn’t tend to result in being punished either, so there is little to stop young people getting drunk.
Drugs and culture 
There are places in the UK where smoking cannabis is as common as drinking alcohol is in the rest of the country. We talked to young people who had grown up in households where parents or siblings smoked cannabis on a regular basis. 

Some young people said that illegal substances are cheap and very easy to get hold of in their neighbourhoods. Chloe pointed out that cannabis is not seen as a ‘hard drug’ in some areas so is not seen as a problem. Kasim said that everybody he knew smoked weed. Karis and Kasim use cannabis themselves but are unhappy about how their neighbourhood has been affected by drugs and gang problems. 
Music festivals and clubs are often associated with drug taking, although this is generally discouraged by the organisers. Some of the young people we talked to said that they only really took drugs when they went to festivals. The link between different types of music and different drugs was explained by Harry.  

See also social life, drugs and alcohol and alcohol and social life.

Last updated: January 2015
Review date: January 2017

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