Real lives: Our young are sleepwalking into addiction

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​Davy Sorbie has overcome heroin addiction and alcoholism and says politicians are misplacing the emphasis on Scotland's battle against addiction 

10th May 2017 by Robert Armour 0 Comments

At 20 I was a heroin addict, by 30 I was an alcoholic. And at 36 I had come full circle, cleaned myself up and was asked onto the Scottish Government’s expert panel on drug and alcohol addiction.

Being brought up in Edinburgh’s Muirhouse meant you had to fight against becoming an addict: it was almost expected of you. I didn’t know anyone who wasn’t hooked on some substance. The dealers were like warlords; they controlled the blocks of flats and would give you free drugs to entice you.

We’d be smoking heroin in school break time. We had no idea and no care for the dangers of addiction.

The danger with any addiction is that it’s behavior forming. What I mean is that you’re far more likely to jump from one addiction to another. I replaced heroin with strong lager, then spirits. I couldn’t do heroin by virtue of the fact I was far too drunk.  

But then I couldn’t do anything. I was homeless and on the streets, stealing to stay drunk. I spent eight years drinking. I remember very little about it.

Prevention is the only cure. Weaning addicts off anything is always going to be hit or miss. The lucky ones will respond well; the unlucky ones (the majority) keep the cycle of addiction and going straight for most of their lives. 

Davy Sorbie

Davy Sorbie

Eventually my body couldn’t cope and I had a near fatal heart attack followed by a stroke. Thankfully it made me see I was killing myself. I never returned to addiction after that. I know I’m lucky to be alive.

I became a community evangelist after as a means to recovery. I put my heart and soul into being a clean-living healthy member of the community. And I set up the Pilton Addiction Group where we took the dangers of addiction message to schools, backed by the local council and then the Scottish Government.   

I put my heart and soul into being a clean-living healthy member of the community

The work in the community got me noted. NHS Midlothian then asked if I’d help set up support networks for its addiction services and this eventually led to me collaborating with the Scottish Government. 

I talk to MSPs and politicians a lot. I tell them we need to prioritise prevention. The big mistake is that the vast majority of cash has gone to treating addiction when every piece of research ever undertaken shows the majority of these schemes don’t work.

We instead should pull out all the stops to ensure this generation knows the dangers of addiction.

Our young are sleepwalking into addiction. So-called legal highs are rife, cocaine has taken over heroin and they are actively being encouraged to drink. And if we don’t promote Class A drugs, why should we promote alcohol?

Changing attitudes remains the biggest hurdle, not just those of our younger generation but politicians and decision makers too. It seems that great emphasis is put on community solutions to addiction but my belief is this is a way of ministers relinquishing the responsibility.

But addiction isn’t a community problem; it’s a national one. And we need a national solution.