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Drugs and Alcohol (young people)

Relationships, drugs and alcohol

People we talked to who’d been in a long term relationship, expressed different views about the effect drugs/alcohol had on them and their partners. Using drugs and alcohol when in a relationship often had a negative effect, but several people pointed out there could be other reasons why relationships didn’t work out.
 

Peter’s ex blamed his cannabis use for their relationship problems but he says the problems were still there when he quit.

Peter’s ex blamed his cannabis use for their relationship problems but he says the problems were still there when he quit.

Age at interview: 27
Sex: Male
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I have done a. I didn't have a trouble-filled relationship with my child, just the mother of him, very. It was a hard relationship. I don’t know and occasionally because things would get so bad that I was, I was probably suffering with depression at times during the relationship because we had a very bad relationship. I was very unhappy. We argued a lot and occasionally she’d convince me that all of our problems were down to the fact that I used cannabis. So occasionally I have stopped and I’ve stopped for three, four months but then what I realised is during those three, four months actually the problem was our relationship. Like the only thing that cannabis did is make me a bit more numb or zoned out from some of the issues. It would make me not face some of the issues actually that in reality were there, the problems existing in our relationship. It was almost as if I was using it to dull some of the, the pain or ill feeling that I had because of this relationship.
 
But according to her, she put it down to...?
 
Yeah she blamed it on that but obviously I, it. The times when I’d stopped smoking cannabis I’d see clearly that these problems were still there. The problems didn’t go away because I’d stopped smoking cannabis.
 
If someone was using drugs regularly while their partner didn’t, relationships could suffer. Looking back, Sam and Charlie could see that when they were high they had not been able to relate to their partners, or pay attention to their feelings.
 

Sam thinks that many of his relationships had ended because of his ‘crazy’ use of drugs. (Played...

Sam thinks that many of his relationships had ended because of his ‘crazy’ use of drugs. (Played...

Age at interview: 28
Sex: Male
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I’d been involved in a relationship that went wrong. And that went wrong due to me taking drugs, I think or it was a part of it. Because I’d sneak out of the house at night and run off and go and do drugs with other people and obviously she was thinking that I was going off doing something. I was probably 17/18 then.
 
And she was not doing drugs?
 
She didn’t do drugs. She knew I was a drug taker and that but I was getting right off my brain like, I’d eat 3 or 4 tablets like in one go and be like eyes rolling in the back of my head and falling around and that. And I thought it was hilarious, what after I thought it was hilarious. I didn’t think it was hilarious like a day later when I’m lying in bed sweating and trying to be sick and basically feeling that I don’t exist anymore like. Do you know what I mean?
 
 

Charlie realises that in the past she spent too much time using drugs and not enough time...

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Charlie realises that in the past she spent too much time using drugs and not enough time...

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It was definitely a negative thing because I was using drugs more than seeing him and he weren’t particularly interested in it. He was in a bad place as well, just feeling depressed and sad a lot of the time, he didn’t know how to deal with it.  And neither did I.  I was running away from it – from him –  because I realised I was not happy with what was going on, and I couldn’t deal with the strain it was putting on me.

I was trying to deal with his problems, and the fact my course was going badly, and my drug use was getting greater and greater… I just couldn’t deal with it.  But a lot of it, I think, was that I was trying to support him emotionally and I just felt worn out and unable to cope.  And I think I got into drug use more, because I just – I didn’t know how to deal with it any other way.
 
The way in the end was to end the relationship but that wasn’t a particularly positive step. Though now it’s been a very positive one, we’re on good terms again. But at the time it was really hard for him, it was a blow when he was already going through a lot. But I couldn’t deal with it anymore and it was sort of. If I’d have tried to keep with him for longer then I think I would have had a breakdown myself. You know it was getting extremely intense and I couldn’t deal with the strain anymore of supporting someone else quite to that extent when I had my stuff to sort out too.

I was spending too much time on drugs and not enough on really socially interacting a huge amount – or doing much work.  That’s why the relationship failed in the end.  Now I’m finding that I don’t have as much time for drugs.  I’m in a new relationship and I’m pretty busy a lot of the time, so drugs kind of have to be a special occasion anyway because I just don’t have the time to use them.
 

We talked to several women who described how their first boyfriends had introduced them to drugs and then after they were hooked, had used drugs to control them.
 

Tara was only thirteen when her boyfriend started putting pressure on her to take cannabis.

Tara was only thirteen when her boyfriend started putting pressure on her to take cannabis.

Age at interview: 20
Sex: Female
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And it was having, I was being pressured into trying stuff by my partner who was fairly abusive and quite forceful on me, so I, just do stuff for the sake of it, never quite enjoyed any of it, but obviously you get the rush of certain things or you get chilled out from certain things and it’s quite a scary time because watching people inject heroin and watching them pass out, slumped in a corner it’s not nice for someone to see at that young age when I was thirteen myself. Going on to like thirteen, fourteen, fifteen then, when my relationship with that partner ended, as did much of the drug use, but I still had the after effects, I had Cannabis Psychosis for lots of smoking of green, oh I had mental scars from all my experiences
 
So you, you felt sort of pressurised to do drugs?
 
Yes, yes.
 
While you were with him?
 
Yes I, yeah very pressurised to do drugs, [sighs] he was six foot four, he was a big, big built bloke, rugby player, and he had such a hold over me, and I was terrified of him but at the time I was thirteen, naïve, I thought I was in love with him, because despite all the bad things and how bad he was towards me he did show me love and affection, so I was with him, I was, I was scared to leave but at the same time I didn’t want to leave because I didn’t have many friends, he, he was there for me in a way, lots of people who are abused do love the person who is abusing them, so, [sighs].
 
What stops people using drugs when they are in a relationship?
Being in a long-term relationship can prompt people to re-think their lifestyles, especially their drug and drink habits. Several people who were regular users said they would definitely kick the habit if they started a family or got married. Having a partner who was into health and fitness had helped many people give up drugs.  
 

Chloe’s boyfriend told her she wasn’t the same person when she was high and, though she found it...

Chloe’s boyfriend told her she wasn’t the same person when she was high and, though she found it...

Age at interview: 20
Sex: Female
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Who was helping you at that time?

My boyfriend and me really because I told the people that I worked with that I had given up during the course but I hadn’t. I was still smoking when I was volunteering so when it was actually time to give up I didn’t tell them about it because they already thought I had. So yeah but they know this now [laugh]. But at the time so yeah it was just me really.
 
So your boyfriend was the main sort of support?
 
Yeah because obviously he was like, I can’t communicate with you when you’re high. You’re not the same person. You’re becoming skinny. You don’t look the same. Your eyes are sunk in. I love you for you but I love you so much that I want you to stop this and improve yourself’ kind of thing.
 
So how did you end up with a boyfriend who was not doing drugs? Was against drugs?
 
I don’t know. We’re not together anymore actually. We split up not that long ago. It’s quite complicated. But I don’t know. He’s very healthy as well. Plays football, goes to the gym every single day, eats healthily. I like to think just because I was a nice person. [laugh] Yeah. 
 

Emma's boyfriend doesn't drink so that helps her say no to alcohol because she doesn't want to...

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Emma's boyfriend doesn't drink so that helps her say no to alcohol because she doesn't want to...

Age at interview: 19
Sex: Female
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Do you have a boyfriend at the moment?
 
[Affirmative noise] yeah.
 
Okay what about in relation to alcohol and to?
 
Well you see for me he is, he is one of the people who doesn’t drink
 
And, anyway and yeah so my boyfriend actually doesn’t drink at the moment, which again makes it easy to say no to alcohol because I don’t want to be completely inebriated and acting like an idiot, so that’s another support that I have...
 
So when you go out with him?
 

I would be like, I’m drinking tonight or I’m not drinking tonight, I’d tell him and whatever would be fine, it’s not an, it’s not an issue, at all it’s just another part of the whole thing [slight laugh]. 

 

Raphael says his fiancée doesn't mind that he uses cannabis, but he would stop if they had children.

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Raphael says his fiancée doesn't mind that he uses cannabis, but he would stop if they had children.

Age at interview: 24
Sex: Male
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Have you ever thought about stopping using it (cannabis) or, or not really?
 
No, not really crossed my mind, I think whenever I, just like everything else whenever I get bored of it, or whenever I don’t want to do it I’ll stop it, but other than that I don’t see the reason. I mean if you were to have children and stuff like that obviously I would, we could stopping it then, definitely stop it. Yeah definitely but, not just now I don’t.
 
Does your fiancée smoke cannabis?
 
She smokes cigarettes, she doesn’t smoke Cannabis.
 
Oh she doesn’t smoke, what are her views on Cannabis?
I think she’s got the same as me I don’t think she, I don’t think she’s overly bothered about it really, I don’t think she, she’s not worried about it or anything like that she’s not worried about me smoking it or anything like that. 
Deciding to stop taking drugs was much easier if the partner was supportive and encouraging. If you think your partner needs help to sort out their drug or drink habit, see our ‘Resources’ section for links to organisations that can help. See Reasons for stopping or cutting down on drug use and Reasons for cutting down on alcohol.

Last reviewed :July 2018.
Last updated: January 2015.

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