There is a growing body of evidence that says there has been a significant increase in the prolific use of Cocaine in the UK for some time. Whilst many users take the drug recreationally and occasionally, there is an alarming increase in problem habitual use. With this comes an increase in those seeking help. However, the problem is lack of resources and services that are geared towards the Cocaine culture, and the needs of that particular client group.
As stated above, many people use Cocaine occasionally and recreationally without any overt damage. However, Cocaine is notoriously moreish in its nature, and an increasing number of people are using it habitually. The damage caused by the drug is considerable. Cocaine is a stimulant and increases the heart rate, and the risk of heart attacks and other cardiovascular diseases. It is nearly always cut with other toxic substances that can cause major health problems. It is often used in conjunction with large amounts of alcohol, the mixture of Cocaine and alcohol produces a chemical in the liver called cocaethylene, this can cause serious liver damage. It can weaken the immune system and cause kidney damage, partly due to its affect on the adrenals. On a psychological level, people can become dependant on the drug very quickly and suffer major ‘come downs’ that can lead to depression, anxiety and, in some cases, psychosis. On a social level many people get into debt to pay for their habit. It is not unusual to meet people on average incomes who spend £200 a week supporting their habit. It can wreck family life, and introduces users to a criminal fraternity and criminal activity, as Cocaine is a class A drug. In essence it is not difficult to understand the problems of habitual use.
For those caught up in Cocaine addiction, there are relatively few options available for help. There is no effective medication to treat Cocaine addiction. Methadone and Subutex can be prescribed for Heroin addiction. Other medications are available for alcoholics, but nothing effective for Cocaine users. The options are very limited in terms of low key treatment for those who feel that they may be developing a habit and a lifestyle that they cannot afford or handle. Whilst there are some excellent services available in the statutory and voluntary sectors, these services are mainly geared towards the heavier end of drug abuse. They often focus on needle exchange for injecting Heroin users, and are geared towards a very different and more chaotic client group. Those who use Cocaine often do not wish to contact this culture, and the very public setting can be off putting. Other options include the 12 step programmes run by Cocaine and Narcotics Anonymous. However, again the public nature of the meetings and the religious undertones put many people off accessing such services. Often there is a very real need for confidentiality and total discretion. Jobs, mortgages, relationships etc. can be severely compromised. If your employer, insurance companies, etc. find out that you have been attending a drug agency for Cocaine addiction it can have a detrimental affect on your career.
Below is a fictional, but very realistic, case history that illustrates the problems Cocaine users face.
David is a 34 year old man living in London. He works for a big Law firm in the City; he works very long hours and gets paid relatively well. He is married with two small children and a mortgage. He is university educated and grew up in a middle class family in North London. He enjoys socializing, plays football, goes to the gym and likes a drink. Part of the culture at David’s place of work is to go out with the lads after work and frequent bars and pubs and drink heavily.
About 18 moths ago David was invited to a party where he was offered Cocaine by a colleague. The colleague told David he could get him good cheap Cocaine whenever he wanted. David started buying regularly. Over the months he began to develop a bit of a habit and his drinking increased. Lately he feels that his lifestyle is getting out of control, his health is becoming affected, he has stopped going to the gym and playing football, and eats junk food. His wife and family know nothing about his habit. Only a few of his close friends, who are fellow users, know. If his employers find out about his drug use he would face instant dismissal, and it is rumored that they are considering drug testing employees for insurance purposes. He is spending too much money and worried he will have to explain the expenditure to his wife. His marriage is beginning to feel the strain. The guilt stresses him out, so he takes more cocaine and alcohol to relieve the pressure. He doesn’t want to see his GP, he has read about 12 step programmes on the internet and is put off by having to be in a group of strangers, and by the religious aspect and the idea that he has a disease. He’s heard that drug treatment agencies cater for alcoholics, Heroin and crack addicts, people with mental health problems, prostitutes and people with a background of criminality. He would feel very uncomfortable with such people. Because of his job and the need for discretion he doesn’t want to have to reveal too much personal information, and if he attends a government sponsored agency that is exactly what he would have to do. This makes him feel uncomfortable. He feels at a loss as to where to seek help.
Whilst the above scenario is fictional, it is typical of the kinds of problems faced by people like David. I have spoken to many people from addiction professionals, to Cocaine users and they all agree that there needs to be an alternative to what is currently on offer.
The aim of the New Leaf Network is to try to begin a process of providing such services, but also working it as a viable independent business.