Within today’s society, drugs and alcohol use among young adults and children is quite common as many of us experiment with substances at early ages to see what they are like, however the effects of these substances and drugs have had a bigger impact of increasingly young people then before, especially people within the foster care system and care leavers leaving the system to become independent.

According to a report called ‘Home Office Research 260’ entitled ‘One Problem among many: drug use among care leavers in transition to independent living’, it states that ‘Historically, it has been widely noted that young people who have grown up in state care are particularly vulnerable to developing or having substance misuse problems’ (Biehal et al., 1995; Social Services Inspectorate, 1997)

For me being in the care system, I would have to admit that during this time, I saw a lot of care leavers and unfortunately children in care use different substances and either develop an addiction to them or get extremely ill due to them. It has been seen that within teenagers and young adults, in society today, the use of drugs and alcohol have been in use more frequently as for many this is a way to be part of a social group, but also many get peer pressured into using.

For many young people who are not in the foster care system, they would have the impact of having the talk that we all off known as the ‘You do not use alcohol for fun’ talk or getting told off in general for finding out that you have been drinking at an early age, however, for children in care this is not the case. When looking at the impact of drugs and alcohol on care leavers and children in care, in my opinion this can be influenced by the support around them from family or friends, just like for people who are not in the system, they can get support from friends and family who can either support them not to use substances again or they can use strong tactics to stop them from using, but this is not the same for children in care.

I remember very clearly in my time of being in the system, that talking to my foster parents or even my case worker was extremely hard, as I never knew what to expect, whether they would understand or if they would judge me for using. In the end I was lucky to be supported by my support worker at college who decided it would be worth talking to a trained drug and alcohol abuse councillor at an organisation called ‘EDAS’ (Essential Drugs and Alcohol Services).

As some of us can agree, going to counselling or even talking to someone that we don’t know can sometimes feel very patronising but also feel that the people that we talk too are either judging you or not really committed to help you with the issue that you are presenting with, however for me, when I had a massive issue with substances, the idea of withdrawing and talking to someone about why I took them and the reason behind them, seemed impossible as back then I felt that there was not anything wrong from using substances, but well was I wrong. After being referred to counselling from my social worker and support team at college, I started to feel better in myself but most importantly it gave me the chance to stop using substances and think about the reasons behind using substances in general.

When looking back now, I have got to admit that if my social worker and the support safeguarding team at college did not intervene when I was being reckless using substances, I fear that I would have a bigger and worse addiction to a lot more different substances but worst case, I would not be around anymore. So, if I were to give one piece of advice to anyone who ever feels that they are in a comparable situation to me or even worse, always talk to someone close to you or in your educational establishment if you can, as they will always be there to support you and do everything they can to support and help you no matter what.

So, if I was to give some personal advice from my own story and experiences with substance abuse as a care leaver, always talk to someone about how you are feeling, many of us know and I even know first-hand that when you feel upset or down the last thing you want to do is to talk to someone you don’t know or someone who you feel will judge you, but by talking to someone close to you either a friend, family member that you live with or even someone in school or college, you will be making the first step to getting better just like I did, and to this day I can’t thank everyone enough for all the support they have given me as if I didn’t get it I would not be where I am today.

By Anonymous Care Experienced Blogger

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