Drugs, including legal substances such as alcohol, can cause long lasting consequences not only personal, but also social. 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, that 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 their 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. According to Office of National Statistics, in 2017, there were 7,697 alcohol-specific deaths in the UK, an age-standardised rate of 12.2 deaths per 100,000 population. 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, and even tax payers.
Drug misuse and dependency can lead to a range of harms for the user including: poor physical and mental health and ultimately death, unemployment, homelessness, family breakdown, criminal activity. But drug misuse also impacts on all those around the user and the wider society. The Home Office estimated in 2010 to 2011 that the cost of illicit drug use in the UK was £10.7 billion per year. Investing in treatment services to reduce drug misuse and dependency can not only help to save lives but will also substantially reduce the economic and social costs of drug-related harm. Research has shown that every £1 invested in drug treatment results in a £2.50 benefit to society. The public values drug treatment because it makes their communities safer and reduces crime; 82% said that the greatest benefit of treatment was improved community safety.
That is why, in 2013, Paper & Cup won a Lunch Business Grab & Go Innovation Award for being a ‘coffee shop with a difference’. The type of experience offered to those in recovery and in the work experience scheme range from customer service, barista skills through to managing budgets. This is helpful for those involved in the scheme to gain the necessary skills of becoming independent and self-sufficient in the workforce.
The café is open from 8am-6pm for visitors to Shoreditch High Street and in the night time it turns into an alcohol-free place for those in recovery. Providing cheap hot drinks and a place to socialise and make new friends. It works as a positive therapy for the recoverees as well as the café staff, who are also in recovery. Having this little haven is an important addition to the East End and it’s a thriving little spot in London with delicious cakes and treats. Brent Clark, an addiction therapist and a development manager at the Spitalfields Crypt Trust (SCT), describes a recovery café as a ‘stigma free space where people in recovery can meet and socialise’. Paper and Cup is the front door to the world, it’s helping de-stigmatise addiction in the local community. As well as the fantastic work that happens at Paper and Cup day in day out, there is a weekly recovery café hosted in the coffee-bookshop. Recovery cafes provide a place for people to come, be welcomed, and socialise – without alcohol.
As Paper & Cup puts it, the reason for abusing substances are individual and personal, but one of the problems is poverty and lack of education, tackling that may help in the long run. All people who volunteer in the cafe are in active recovery, looking for suitable housing and employment: some find the programme we offer useful, some opt out. Training people in people in customer service and giving them useful skills for future careers, Paper & Cup has some successful stories to share: “One of the volunteers in our programme – M. ended up being a paid member of staff and is with us for over 5 years. Other volunteer K. started working in an event space that handles alcohol, and is not bothered by it.”
The café is often visited by Russell Brand, English comedian, actor and activist, and has most recently received a visit by Prince William, Duke of Cambridge, where he heard about SCT’s work supporting those who find themselves homeless and recovering from addictions. As Paper&Cup say: “We believe everyone deserves a second chance, and if all society was willing to help one another, our life would be much easier.”