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Clean of drugs and experimentation after 20 years

Service user head
Brought up in an academic and bohemian household in a comfortable north London suburb, Philip had a liberal exposure to illegal drugs use.
 
His parents had been the epitome of the Sixties’ hippie couple, originally living in a commune after moving to the capital, and as Philip grew up his father maintained his relaxed attitude to experimentation. 
 
“ ‘Everything in moderation, including moderation’ he used to say,” recalls Philip as he tries to pinpoint the causes of his own future struggles with drugs abuse. 
 
Rather than “moderate” drug use, this has included a significant cocaine addiction and a period of experimentation in the “incredibly seedy world” of chemsex – involving use of stimulants that cause the user to lose inhibitions and intensify sensation.
 
His experience with drugs started in his early teens with smoking cannabis, then taking ecstasy at 17 and then mushrooms, ketamine and cocaine throughout his university days.
 
How great an influence his father’s attitude to drugs or his own Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) - just recently diagnosed - was originally, Philip is unsure, but he found he particularly liked cocaine.
 
Philip says: “At that time of my life, I felt indestructible and the world was mine for the taking. The drugs I liked were the ‘uppers’ as I found they evened out my hyperactivity, I was never really into opiates that much.”
 
After a lengthy move working in Asia following university, opportunities for illegal drugs consumption were more restricted, but he partied hard during infrequent trips to London and the US.
 
It was when he moved to California to take up a job in a digital media company that his cocaine abuse rocketed. Easy availability, lifestyle, and having to host and entertain industry clients – Philip became hooked and at the height of his consumption was spending almost £600 a week on the drug.
 
“By then, my thinking was not normal, and I could make 1+1 = 5. I could create a narrative in my own fevered brain which seemed so real to me but was firmly rooted in fantasy rather than fact. I caused arguments and was a myopic, selfish, stubborn fool,” recalls Philip.
 
In 2017, he realised his addiction was costing him heavily, both in cash and in his relationships, and he came back to London to be near close family.
 
But instead of helping him quit drugs completely, after his move home he was lured further underground - into the dangerous world of chemsex.
 
Philip says: “This led me to experimenting with some very dangerous substances including crystal meth and GHB. As my therapist would later say to me – there’s nothing wrong with having kinky sex, but at least do it sober.
 
“The act of getting out of my head and losing myself for a few hours was a welcome relief from my inner turmoil.”
 
But over Christmas 2017, Philip got a huge jolt when he learned that a close friend from his school days had died of a drugs overdose.
 
The tragedy began to put his own life into perspective and with the help of his family he booked into private rehab for the first five weeks of 2018 – “one of the hardest periods of my life”.
 
Subsequently, he has been supported by the specialist substance misuse service at the Margarete Centre, Hampstead Road, London NW1, part of Camden and Islington NHS Foundation Trust, who followed up with him after his rehab. 
 
Philip attended weekly individual key worker meetings at the centre, as well as group therapy sessions. Philip has also been encouraged to practice Mindfulness and is now taking up sport again. 
 
Now free of illicit substances for the first time in 20 years, through psychiatric support at the Margarete Centre he has also received a diagnosis of ADHD, which has been a further significant step in explaining his personal motivations and impulses.  
 
He says: “I feel better both mentally and physically than I have in the past couple of decades. I am very thankful to everyone at the Margarete Centre for their support. It has not been an easy road, and I look back on it with a mixture of horror in terms of where I came from, pride at having come so far and anticipation for what lies ahead.”
 
Due to the sensitive and personal nature of these events, the name of the person involved has been changed to protect their identity.
 

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