Revelations that hundreds of children of primary school age in the UK are being referred to specialist drug and alcohol treatment services are truly shocking.
These figures testify to the insidious and appalling damage that abuse can wreak in thousands of homes.
Drugs are a scourge; they take over and destroy lives. To deliver a consistent message, so-called legal highs and cannabis have to be included in that warning, despite the recent decriminalisation in some countries and some parts of the United States.
The major inconsistency in all this, of course, is alcohol, a drug that causes a huge amount of damage and at a huge cost to society, but one that is part of our culture, albeit a corrosive part of it.
The figures are bleak and baleful confirmation that alcohol problems do not only affect the person drinking, but also every-one around them, including family, friends and colleagues. And the impact can be especially difficult for children.
Separate research has indicated that one in five children across the UK is currently living with a parent who drinks a dangerous amount. People can be affected by their parent’s drink problem and the apparent “normality” of heavy and prolonged drinking in the home. Family life comes to revolve round alcohol – its purchase, consumption and consequences. Children copy their parents and come to believe that such abuse is “normal” and that they too can participate. Thus are the seeds of this problem sown, and this problem often continues into adulthood.
Making matters worse is that the drink problem is often not talked about – still less admitted as a problem – and alcoholism becomes the family secret. Family members often collude with the alcoholic to keep the problem hidden from the outside world. Habitual drink abusers become well versed in the art of deception and the hiding of evidence.
Problems commonly associated with alcohol abuse include financial insecurity, stinting on proper meals and food, inconsistent and unpredictable behaviour, arguments between parents, aggression and violence, and accidents.
Members of the wider family and neighbours do these abusive households no favours by failing to report problems and turning a blind eye. Vigilance is a vital first step in tackling this problem. Alcohol and drugs corrode behaviour and inflict a huge cost to individuals and to society across all of Scotland.
Breaking the cycle of abuse is paramount. And that requires constant and diligent commitment to a three-pronged approach: education (by nature a slow burn, but essential in every school and home), strict enforcement of licensing laws, and making alcohol more expensive. Unpopular though this course may be for those who drink moderately, it is a course we must now pursue with all speed.
Trump’s harrumph over
Turnberry, sited on one of the most beautiful stretches of the Ayrshire coast, is a golf resort renowned round the world. So news that Donald Trump has been successful in his bid to buy the complex will arouse hope and apprehension in equal measure. And some wry smiles.
No individual is likely to be more assiduous in raising the profile of Turnberry in the competitive world of golf than Mr Trump. But he comes with baggage considerably bulkier than a Jack Nicklaus set of clubs.
Barely three months ago the US property tycoon dropped further plans to invest in Scotland following a long-running dispute over a planned offshore wind farm which he claimed would spoil the view from his development at the Menie Estate in Aberdeenshire.
In pursuit of his complaint he sent a blistering letter to Scotland’s First Minister and, when he lost the appeal, declared he would be focusing “all of our investment in Ireland”.
But just days after announcing a £12.4 million investment in County Clare, news emerged of a plan for nine wind turbines up to 126 metres high two miles to the south of the site.
Mr Trump’s mischievous opponents may sniff an opportunity to further torment the tycoon: that area of the Ayrshire coast has been zoned for wind turbines. But even with the final hurdles now cleared on the purchase negotiations, Mr Trump, who has obviously changed his mind about Scotland, owes it to this country and to its government to show contrition for his petulant huff over Menie.
Work on diplomatic bridge repair needs to take priority now that he is back investing here.