Drink and Drugs News DDN September 2019 - Page 12

Comment Crisis point Last year had the highest number of drug-related deaths on record – 4,359 people, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS). What should we do to reverse this appalling trend? URGENT MEASURES First, people who use opiates like heroin need easy access to quality treatment in their own communities. This means the right dose of a replacement medication and an experienced key worker to support and listen to them. Second, we need to invest more in community outreach. Many local services have faced cutbacks and the reality is that outreach services barely exist anymore. Third, we need a national push to promote the overdose reversal drug naloxone. It is a safe, effective, life- saving tool and we need to get people trained and carrying naloxone all over the country. Fourth, the rise in cocaine deaths shows treatment services need to do more to reach out to this group. These are crisis measures. They are urgent and necessary. But we will only make real progress if we tackle poverty and disadvantage in our communities. Mike Dixon, chief executive, Addaction STRONGER FOCUS ON PREVENTION We believe that drug policy should be guided by the best available scientific evidence, rather than by ideology or political expediency and this includes an evidence-based approach to drugs classification. We call for a stronger focus on prevention and the root causes of problematic substance use. Interventions should be delivered by a skilled workforce in collaboration and consultation with peers in recovery and 12 | drinkanddrugsnews | September 2019 professionals from other areas such as primary care, mental health, housing and employment support. Drug users must also receive equitable access to health services to improve their physical health. Royal Society of Public Health and Faculty of Public Health EVIDENCE-BASED TREATMENT Long- term heroin users with poor health, who frequently use a cocktail of different drugs and alcohol, are most at risk. For this group the best way to prevent drug-related deaths is to get people into treatment. Widescale distribution of naloxone kits which can be used to save someone’s life if they overdose from heroin is also key. Jay Stewart, director for public health and substance misuse, Turning Point A PUBLIC HEALTH CRISIS We know that drug-related deaths are linked to age and complicated by health conditions. Poverty, deprivation, homelessness and mental health conditions all increase the chances of a life lost to drugs. That is why we need investment in substance misuse services that support people to improve their physical and mental health. Working with our partners, we are fully committed to offering comprehensive care and supporting our service users to be healthier and happier. This includes providing medical help and opportunities for ‘Our message to any person or organisa tion that can prevent another drug related death is simple – we are ready to work with you.’ housing, volunteering, training and meaningful work. We continue to prioritise the national distribution of life-saving naloxone kits. In the last year alone, more than 1,500 lives have potentially been saved through naloxone. This is a national public health crisis and action is needed. Our message to any person or organisation that can prevent another drug-related death is simple – we are ready to work with you. Mark Moody, chief executive, Change Grow Live LOSS OF HARM REDUCTION TALENT This report further emphasises the need for a focus on effective harm reduction interventions as well as a need to address key stresses on the treatment system, such as naloxone prescribing and the overall capacity of the workforce which has experienced a significant loss of talent, particularly harm reduction specialists. It is clear that the ability of the treatment system to respond is being stunted by ongoing budget reductions, instability in commissioning arrangements and the overall budget available. When will government draw a line in the sand and decide enough is enough around drug- related deaths? NHS Substance Misuse Providers Alliance (NHS SMPA) FOLLOW THE EVIDENCE! With this condition, as with many other medical conditions, we need to follow the evidence and not what people would prefer to be true. The evidence shows us that opioid substitution treatment and other forms of treatment that go alongside decriminalisation, such as has been done in Portugal – increasing welfare, reducing punishment and providing public health services – have been shown to reduce drug-related deaths, and that’s what we should be doing. Most of the people who suffer from chronic drug use have had very difficult lives including bereavement, trauma, abuse and neglect. Very few of those people who have been using heroin for a long time do that out of choice – they do it because they are caught in a situation where heroin use is the only way to reduce their pain. [For] people that have got into problematic patterns of heroin use, the most effective thing we can do is provide them with good treatment and stop punishing them. Alex Stevens, professor in criminal justice and joint chair of ACMD, speaking on BBC Radio 4 www.drinkanddrugsnews.com