Addiction In The UK: The Substance Abuse Capital Of Europe

In 2013, the Centre for Social Justice determined that the level of addiction in the UK made it the “addiction capital of Europe.” This includes the use of legal substances, mainly alcohol, and the use of Class A drugs, which include Heroin, Cocaine, Meth, and Hallucinogens. £36 billion is spent by the nation every year on treatment relating to drug and alcohol abuse. At the time of filing its report, titled No Quick Fix, the UK had the highest rate of addiction to Opioids and the highest lifetime use of Amphetamines, Cocaine, and Ecstasy across Europe.

Many view addiction as something that only affects the users themselves, but in reality, casualties from substance abuse are taxing on entire communities and society as a whole. Addiction in the UK affects everyone, from loved ones to hospital workers.

Featured Addiction Treatment Centres in the UK

Alcoholism In The UK

Despite alcohol being legal, alcohol use and addiction in the UK are some of the greatest substance issues faced by the country. In the year 2015, there were over 8,000 casualties from drunk driving, including 220 fatalities. Of the estimated 595,131 people suffering from alcoholism in the UK, less than one-fifth receive help. Of that one-fifth, 4 out of 10 were unable to complete their recovery program.

Hundreds of thousands of people suffer from alcoholism in the UK; it is a significant issue. No doubt many think that something like this won’t happen to them. This thinking, however, is influenced by alcohol and the stigma that comes with dependency. In reality, alcohol is a highly addictive and mind-impairing substance.

Prescription Drug Abuse And Addiction In The UK

Many fear that their friends and family may be abusing or addicted to illicit drugs, like Heroin, Cocaine, or Marijuana. However, prescription drugs are actually more frequently abused in the UK. Prescription Opioids and Benzodiazepines, in particular, are frequently abused and highly addictive. In many cases, individuals will develop an addiction when they are prescribed these medication for pain or mental health conditions.

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Opioid Addiction In The UK

Prescription Opioid abuse and addiction have climbed over the years across the Western world. Tramadol in particular has been so frequently prescribed that it is a common addiction in the UK. The drug has been tied to a rising number of deaths in England, 240 deaths in 2014, and is responsible for 40% of drug-related deaths in Northern Ireland, up from 9% in 2011.

Tramadol was the most prescribed Opioid in England, despite the death count, over a course of 43 months from 2011 to 2014. It doesn’t carry the stigma of more powerful Opioids like Morphine, but it is still a great deal stronger than over-the-counter pain relief. The addictiveness of Tramadol makes it hard to realize that a dependency is forming. Any long-term use of Tramadol, even when the drug is taken as prescribed, can lead to building a dependency and, eventually, an addiction.

Benzodiazepine Addiction In The UK

Prescription Benzodiazepines, or Benzos, are often prescribed to help with anxiety and seizures. The most popular Benzodiazepine in the UK, and much of the world, is Xanax. The UK’s population is about 20% as large as America’s; however, its market for untraceable online sales of Xanax is almost half the amount sold in a similar fashion in the US. Xanax accounted for 50,000 trades on one of the largest dark web marketplaces. One trade can include thousands of pills. These numbers also don’t account for the number of people who are procuring the drug legally, with a prescription, and then selling it to others looking to abuse it.

Benzo addiction in the UK often starts as a prescription. A doctor will prescribe a Benzo, usually for no longer than 10 days, to help suppress anxiety or symptoms of seizures and panic disorders. The danger lies in how potent Benzos are, as even taking the drugs as directed can lead to a dependency. Eventually, once the prescription ends, many are pushed to continue using because they’ve developed an addiction.



220 people died in the UK in 2015 because of a drunk driver.


hospital admissions

In 2017, there were 14,053 hospital admissions across England tied to illicit drug use.



There were 2,593 deaths in 2016 across England and Wales due to drug use.

Illicit Drug Addiction In The UK

While many have developed an addiction in the UK to legal drugs, illicit drug use is also on the rise. Cannabis, the most abused substance after alcohol, is used by more than 2,000,000 people. Cocaine, despite being used by less than 1,000,000 users, is becoming more accessible, making abuse and addiction more commonplace. Meanwhile, without enough resources, rehabilitation clinics can become overstretched, overused, and unable to help everyone who comes through.

Treatment For Addiction In The UK

If you are struggling with an addiction in the UK, and need help figuring out your next steps, contact a treatment provider today.