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More countries implementing harm reduction services

The number of countries implementing key harm reduction services has increased for the first time in almost a decade , according to the latest Global state of harm reduction report from Harm Reduction International ( HRI ).

The increase has been driven by the launch of new NSP services in five African countries , as well as officially sanctioned consumption rooms in four new countries . Opioid agonist therapy has been introduced for the first time in three countries , while the number of countries with take-home or peer-distributed naloxone programmes has also increased , says HRI .
More than 90 countries worldwide now have needle and syringe programmes , the document states , with 87 offering opioid agonist therapy . Consumption rooms are operating in 16 countries , and more than 100 countries officially support harm reduction in their national drug policies . The document warns against any
MORE THAN 320 DRUG POISONING DEATHS were registered in Wales last year , an increase of 44 per cent on 2020 ’ s figure , according to Public Health Wales . Sixty-five per cent of these were classed as drug misuse deaths . Two thirds of the drug deaths involved a combination of drugs , including prescription medications and alcohol .
As is the case with Scotland and England ’ s ongoing drug deaths crises , drug misuse deaths were disproportionately concentrated in deprived areas , with the death rate five times higher among those living in the most deprived quintile .
Opioids were reported in more than 70 per cent of the deaths , of which more than 90 per cent involved heroin / morphine . Most of the deaths were in the 40-44 age range , complacency , however , stating that the ‘ coverage and scale of harm reduction is still limited ’. Huge inequalities remain both within and between regions and countries in terms of access to services , with people in rural areas particularly poorly served .
While the vast majority of counties in Western Europe , North America and Eurasia implement both NSP and OST , these are still ‘ more absent than present ’ across Africa , the Middle East , Latin America and the Caribbean . Harm reduction in prisons also remains limited and has seen little expansion in over a decade , says HRI .
COVID-19 has ‘ tested the resilience ’ of harm reduction services , the report states , with many services forced to close or scale down during the worst of the pandemic . The invasion of Ukraine and the Taliban retaking control of Afghanistan have also had significant impacts on harm reduction provision , while funding remains an ongoing global challenge . The findings of HRI ’ s
although there were 13 among the under-25s . Although the overall ratio of male to female deaths was around 3:1 , 2021 saw the highest ever number of female deaths , at 57 .
‘ Premature deaths from drug use are preventable ,’ said head of substance misuse at Public Health Wales , Rick Lines . ‘ Whilst the impact of drug deaths is experienced by the whole socio-economic spectrum , they are more than five times more likely to occur in those living in the most deprived areas in Wales compared to the least deprived .’
Deaths involving cocaine had more than doubled over the last five years , he added , while the increase in deaths involving benzodiazepines was also concerning . Harm reduction database Wales : drug-related mortality at https :// phw . nhs . wales monitoring of investment have been ‘ consistently dire ’, says the organisation , and this remains the case in the latest report .
Only a few international donors fund harm reduction , and their investment appears to be shrinking . ‘ In low- and middleincome countries , funding for harm reduction is only 5 per cent of the level needed to meet the estimated service needs for people who inject drugs by 2025 ,’ says the report .
‘ The Global state of harm reduction 2022 shows the positive changes that communities and civil society are making among people who use drugs through evidenceand rights-based harm reduction services ,’ states UNAIDS executive director Winnie Byanyima in the document ’ s foreword . ‘ The good news is that change is possible and within reach , as long as governments and donors invest in community-led solutions that work . It is not only the right thing to do , it is their duty . Access to healthcare is a human right for all of us .’ Report at https :// hri . global
‘ The good news is that change is possible and within reach , as long as governments and donors invest in community-led solutions that work .’
WINNIE BYANYIMA

Welsh drug deaths increase by almost half

KEY FINDINGS
• As in previous years , the most commonly reported substance group was opioids , reported in 150 deaths ( 71 per cent ), of which 93 per cent involved heroin / morphine .
• Other substances reported were diazepam , cocaine and methadone . Poly-drug use was reported in 62 per cent of drug misuse deaths .
• In 2021 , the ratio of deaths among males and females was around 3:1 . Drug misuse deaths among females was the highest recorded in 2021 , with 57 deaths .
• Most deaths occurred in those in the 40-44 year age group reported in 18 per cent of all drug deaths in 2021 .
• There were 13 drug deaths in people under the age of 25 .
• There remains considerable geographic variation in the agestandardised rates of drug misuse deaths across Wales , with rates ranging from 1.4 to 13.5 deaths per 100,000 population .
• Drug misuse deaths were over 5 times higher among those living in the 20 per cent most deprived areas compared with the 20 per cent least deprived areas in Wales . www . unaids . org
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