7 Drugs for 7 decades

One in three adults in England and Wales have used illicit drugs in their lifetime, according to a study by the British Crime Survey.

In fact, deaths related to drug misuse are at their highest since comparable records began in 1993.

But over the years, the landscape of drug use has changed. The swinging sixties saw a rise in hallucinogens

Today, however, drug users are taking ‘legal highs’.

Here’s a look at how the drug of choice has changed through the decades.

1950s: Alcohol

There was once a time before mass drug addiction. The 1950s could be deemed as that time.

During this decade, there were only 317 reported addicts to manufactured drugs in Britain.

Considering that more than 14,000 people were admitted to hospital in 2017 with a primary diagnosis of poisoning from illicit drugs, a lot has changed. But just because the 1950s lacked drug addiction, it doesn’t mean people weren’t taking them.

Alcohol was extremely common in the household in the 1950s.

Many post-war baby boomers had a lot on their plate, and it was during this time that alcohol was easy to access, legal to consume and affordable for the average household.

1960s: LSD

The swinging sixties wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows. In fact, the use of hallucinogens during this decade became such a problem that the government was urged to outlaw LSD because it was perceived as a threat to society.

However, as damaging as LSD can be, it can be argued that it is responsible for kick-starting the inner awareness that led people into areas such as natural healing, yoga and meditation.

Too much of something bad oftens leads to an extreme shift in the other direction, and we’re all better off for it.

1970s: Cannabis

By 1979 Cannabis use had hit its peak.

It was famed for being a relaxant and for enabling creativity. For the 1970s youth, it was seen as a forbidden fruit, a fruit that reduced the stress of societal and parental pressures and that ‘made everything okay’.

Today is a different story, however. Cannabis use is still widely used and in many places across the globe, like Amsterdam and some U.S. states, it has even become legal to consume.

1980s: Heroin

With the birth of the ‘Trainspotting’ generation came Heroin.

Although pure opium first arrived in the UK back in 1693 (and was even prescribed to households by doctors as a pain relief), it wasn’t until the 1980s that it really took off, thanks to a sudden influx of cheap heroin from Pakistan.

Heroin was used so often in the 1980s that the UK government declared it an epidemic.

For example, in the small town of Wirral, Merseyside, a population of 340,000 people went from having almost no heroin users to more than 4,000 young adult users only six years later.

1990s: Ecstasy

In 1995, the home office estimated that 1.5 million tablets were taken every weekend.

That same year, Leah Betts died from an overdose only four hours after taking the drug, and her haunting image made front-page news. It was, however, a good decade to be an ecstasy dealer.

Vice interviewed an ex-drug dealer who claimed that he used to make £8,947 ($12,000 USD) a night. This certainly says something about the consumption of ecstasy during this time.

2000s: Cocaine

The UK was branded ‘Europe’s Cocaine Capital’ by the UN, with the number of users rising from 25 percent between 2008 and 2009, and peaking at one million.

However, even though cocaine was one of the most used drugs during the noughties, it’s height was in the


Cocaine in the 1980s was cheap. It was hideously attractive. And it certainly was cheerful.

It was even more common than alcohol, beating it by a full eight percentage points.

But by the 2000s, it had become a cultural staple at many places of work.

Bankers, accountants and business people had money to make, and cocaine meant they could work through the night without fear of missing out.

2010s: ‘Legal Highs’

While cocaine, ecstasy and cannabis remain Britain’s most popular drugs, new ‘legal highs’ and other synthetic drugs are appearing on the market at a rate of one a week, and 10 percent of the British population have now tried them.

In fact, more than 560 original legal highs have appeared on the streets of the UK since the mid-2000s, and they’re forever changing face.

By taking a banned substance and tweaking just one chemical, a drug can easily become legal.

What’s in store for the future?

With the legal system constantly playing catch up, the future of drugs looks to follow a trend of synthetic molecule alteration.

‘Legal highs’ will likely dominate the market because people can take drugs while keeping inside the confines of the law.

With no threat of prison time, the risk attached to selling and consuming drugs is diminished.

This poses a serious problem, a problem we want to solve.

To find out how you can help someone with a drug problem, visit our website or contact us here.

About Camino Recovery Centre

Camino Recovery Centre offers addiction treatment for individuals, families, counselling for drink and drug abuse as well as treatment for depression and anxiety.

If you are concerned about any of the above, then please contact Meena Lavender at the Camino Recovery Centre on +44 207 558 8420 or visit www.caminorecovery.com.


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