Drink and Drugs News DDN February 2020 | Page 4

NEWS ROUND-UP Twice as many prisoners develop drug problems Homeless people dying of preventable substance problems A t least 12,000 people experiencing homelessness went without drug and alcohol treatment in 2018, according to research by St Mungo’s – a year that saw a 55 per cent increase in drug poisoning deaths among homeless people. Of more than 700 deaths of people sleeping rough or in emergency accommodation in 2018, two in five were related to drug poisoning (DDN, October 2019, page 4) and more than half were either alcohol or drug-related. Around 60 per cent of people sleeping rough now have a drug or alcohol problem, says the charity, up from 50 per cent four years ago, while London has seen a 65 per cent increase in women with substance problems sleeping rough since 2014-15. Alongside new data analysis, the This is a neglected health crisis that requires rapid action Howard Sinclair 4 • DRINK AND DRUGS NEWS • FEBRUARY 2020 report includes in-depth interviews and peer research, and is one of the most comprehensive looks at the links between rough sleeping and substance use in two decades. The charity has declared the situation a health crisis, with cuts in funding for treatment services leading to ‘record numbers of people who are homeless living with, and dying of, preventable drug and alcohol problems’. The government needs to urgently join up health and housing in a new strategy to honour its commitment to end rough sleeping by 2024, the charity states, as well as increase funding for multi- disciplinary services and encourage the use of trauma informed approaches. ‘This is a neglected health crisis that requires rapid action,’ said St Mungo’s chief executive Howard Sinclair. ‘Our research shows that people who have already faced traumatic experiences throughout their lives are being turned away from life-saving treatment just when they need it most. Not only are hundreds of people dying from drug poisoning but even more are living in terrible conditions on the streets whilst tackling very serious ill health. Now is the moment for ministers to show they are serious about the commitment to join up health and housing to end rough sleeping once and for all.’ Knocked back: Failing to support people sleeping rough with drug and alcohol problems is costing lives at mungos.org THE PROPORTION OF PRISONERS who say they have developed a drug problem while in custody has doubled to almost 15 per cent in the last five years, according to a report from Reform. ‘The presence of drugs, especially psychoactive substances, has a significant impact on levels of violence across the estate,’ says The prison system: priorities for investment, with levels of prisoner- on-prisoner and prisoner-on-staff assaults increasing by 30 per cent since 2016. Among the report’s recommendations are that the Ministry of Justice considers banning or reducing the use of short custodial sentences to help ease overcrowding. ‘More prisoners are getting pulled in to the prison drug market, and there There are fewer opportunities for [prisoners] to use their time in prison to turn away from drugs and crime Mike Trace are fewer opportunities for them to use their time in prison to turn away from drugs and crime,’ said Forward Trust chief executive Mike Trace. Document at reform.uk Act now to avoid fentanyl crisis FENTANYL AND ITS ANALOGUES present a ‘significant ongoing risk’ to public health in the UK, according to an ACMD report, with more needing to be done to mitigate it. While rates of registered deaths involving fentanyls have increased over the last ten years the number is still ‘likely to be under-represented’, says ACMD, as ‘sufficiently detailed forensic analyses are not always carried out’. Among the recommendations in Misuse of fentanyl and fentanyl analogues are systematic screening of all drug poisoning death toxicology samples to include analysis for fentanyl, and the commissioning of research to look at diversion and non-medical use of strong opioids. The government should also carry out a full review of international drug strategy approaches to fentanyl markets, particularly ‘the US experience’, and improve training for health professionals, it adds. Report at www.gov.uk Highest Northern Ireland drug death totals NORTHERN IRELAND has recorded its highest level of drug-related deaths, according to the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency (NISRA). There were 189 drug-related deaths registered in 2018, 39 per cent higher than 2017 and more than double the level of a decade ago. More than 85 per cent of the drug fatalities were classed as drug misuse deaths, up from less than 60 per cent a decade ago. Men accounted for 70 per cent of the overall total, with half of the deaths involving three or more drugs – 115 mentioned an opioid on the death certificate and more than a fifth mentioned alcohol. A UK- wide summit on how best to work together to prevent drug-related deaths will take place in Glasgow on 27 February, the government has announced. ‘People are dying from drugs every day across the UK, and this summit will bring us together to tackle the issue of drug misuse,’ said event chair, crime minister Kit Malthouse. WWW.DRINKANDDRUGSNEWS.COM