Reducing Drug Deaths in Scottish Borders
Graham Ford • Published 4 Sep 2012 12:04
Figures recently released by the Scottish Government show that the number of drugs related deaths rose last year to its highest ever level and that in 9 out of the last 10 years the highest number of deaths are in the age group of 25-34.
In Scottish Borders, the Alcohol and Drug Partnership delivers a two pronged approach to preventing harm related to drug misuse, prevention of drug use and provision of treatment and recovery services for those affected. The Alcohol and Drug Partnership (ADP) is made up of the relevant services within NHS Border, Scottish Borders Council, Lothian and Borders Police and the voluntary sector.
Prevention work focuses on increasing alcohol and drugs awareness in children and young people through education in schools from Drugs and Alcohol Awareness Officer and through the voluntary sector agency Face-to-Face and Up2U, which delivers peer education work. A lot of work is also done to increase awareness of the dangers and implications of new drugs, especially the so called 'legal highs' which can change quite rapidly.
Treatment services in Borders include inpatient and outpatient services, including supporting detox at home. We have consistently achieved the 3 week waiting times target which ensures that people who have problematic drug use can quickly access support to reduce their drug taking.
To support the treatment of people trying to come off drugs, the national 'Take Home Naloxone' programme was introduced earlier last year. Naloxone is an injectable antidote to opiates, such as heroin, which temporarily reverses the effects of an overdose, keeping the person breathing, and allowing time for emergency services to arrive. They are issued to people who are deemed to be at risk of an overdose. In the event of an overdose naloxone can be administered by anyone for the purpose of saving a life.
Naloxone will only impact on drug death figures significantly if a "necessary proportion" of opiate drug users (in the order of 25%) have access to Naloxone. NHS Borders is achieving this. We have issued 144 kits and 175 individuals, some of whom will be family members and friends of drug users.
The voluntary agency Big River Project supports recovery groups where people who have broken their habit and are abstinent from drug use can develop confidence and skills which can help them to look for work or get back in to education.
Dr Mike Kehoe, NHS Borders Consultant Psychiatrist in Addictions, said "These figures highlight the ongoing tragedy of young lives cut short by drugs.. Sadly, many of these people will have been in contact with drug misuse services at some time."
"Rehabilitation from drug misuse can be a long and complicated journey and people need a lot of support, not only from our services, but from family and friends. So when someone dies, even though they have taken steps to change their life, it is all the more devastating for them and for their family and friends. This is why we need to do whatever we can to reduce the risk of people dying from accidental overdoses."
"The success of the Take Home Naloxone programme in the Borders shows that we are reaching a large number of people who want to stop using drugs, and we know that the kits have been used on eight occasions between August 2011and March 2012. That is potentially eight people who have another chance at life."
Because of the success of the National Naloxone Programme further developments are planned for 2012/13. These include developing peer trainer networks to widen the reach of the naloxone training, investigating GP engagement in the scheme and developing new training materials taking advantage of the latest technology, including a naloxone website www.naloxone.org.uk , mobile phone training app and QR codes for immediate browser pointing and downloading of the apps and website and a directory of services providing naloxone.
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