The afternoon at Many Roads was a lively interactive session, where delegates explored a range of key themes and topics.
Experiences of treatment
How do we challenge ‘one size fits all’ treatment? In London, for example, there had been entire boroughs with just a single treatment modality – and a lot of this simply came down to poor commissioning. Services had been declining over the course of the last decade across every indicator, resulting in a severe lack of choice. The funding system after drug treatment’s move to public health also meant that more money was being spent on bureaucracy, with many projects abandoned simply because they weren’t big enough.
‘It’s the abandonment of empathy,’ said one delegate. In some areas, people were required to do around nine weeks of group work prior to a detox – ‘they’d lost interest by then’. Another thought that the drugs issue had been framed in a way – ‘as is often the case with politicians – that we need to make people jump through hoops to solve it’, ignoring the fundamental truth that it should be about choice. ‘You can’t let service providers off the hook, either’, another delegate stated. ‘There’s often an attitude of “this is what we do here”.’ People who were using on top of their prescriptions could be thrown off a service despite the fact that ‘these are exactly the people you want in here.’
Words from the floor:
‘Ketamine use is on the rise and cystitis, or “K bladder” is something that’s not addressed. So development of a specialist treatment pathway for that, for example, would be one way to challenge one size fits all.’
‘If you’re a menopausal woman living in temporary accommodation on your own, or an 18-year-old person surrounded by a supportive family, one size fits all won’t work – it just doesn’t. There’s a lack of engagement with the individual, and far too much ticking boxes.’
‘Out of hours provision is important. We’ve bought into this idea from social services, education, GP surgeries, where it’s 9 to 5, Monday to Friday. And if you are doing out of hours provision it’s about advertising that, and making sure people know where to go at those times.’
‘I’m wondering what’s happened to outreach services. During the pandemic it was exciting that we could go out and find people and do testing on the street, or at least be talking to them. It seems that these days most of the outreach is run by homeless services. I think more drug services should be proactive in getting out there.’
Peers save lives!
The drugs sector in the 1990s had ‘more of a wild west feel, an energy’. Ten years later it had obviously become more professional but had also lost some of the initiative – a lot of outreach work had disappeared with recommissioning and the later move to public health. ‘In the pandemic there was lots of great outreach work – including giving out naloxone – but it was being done by homelessness and housing charities,’ one delegate stated.
Words from the floor:
‘I’m five and a half years clean. Through Turning Point I was introduced to a peer-led recovery community called Dear Albert, and my whole journey from there to now has been in that recovery community. We have a list of all the mutual aid available in the services, in GP surgeries; we do outreach on a daily basis, we work with the drug services, criminal justice, we go into prisons, work with the homeless services. If it wasn’t for people with lived experience I wouldn’t be here today.’
‘It’s about trusting people who take drugs. In Wales we have peer-to-peer naloxone, which means making sure that people who are taking drugs – and so are more likely to be there when someone overdoses – are given the tools and training to deliver naloxone. It’s not that useful me having naloxone – there aren’t that many people overdosing in Waitrose. And give the drug dealers as many needles as you can, to keep people safe.’
‘I’ve been impressed with what happened in Birmingham in the COVID year. Our drug-related death rate was 20 per cent lower than in 2019 – and that’s because we had the outreach. Go to people where they are, and help them to get whatever they need. We used to have excellent outreach teams, but they disappeared when the money went. They’ve been reinvented because of COVID, so let’s not lose that.’
‘Peers do amazing work in accessing our communities, but let’s start paying them.’
Let’s talk about stigmaMore and more jobs at drug services were now requiring DBS (disclosure and barring service), one participant explained, as they involved access to vulnerable people. ‘There’s this attitude of “you can’t trust people”. People who just want to do their jobs are being prevented from doing it – attitudes haven’t changed’.
Words from the floor:
‘Every time someone writes some bullshit about us, get on social media and respond to it. We need positive depictions of people who use drugs.’
‘Stigma has affected me throughout my life. Services are trying to put a plaster on a gaping wound and it isn’t going to work. We need to educate from the bottom up to eradicate stigma – we’ve done this already for mental health. We need to do the same thing for addiction, because it is a mental health matter.’
‘We’re all here for a reason, because we believe in this. But when we go back to our workplaces we probably all work with people who see their job as transactional. We are all social changemakers – it’s about having the conversations. Use the communities, be that online or in person to replenish your energy. Because one of the risks we all have is burnout.’
Me, myself, I… where do we go from here?
Drug treatment hadn’t been a political priority for a long time, but services still needed to interact with politicians, one delegate stressed. ‘Get the MPs and local councillors out to talk to service users.’ Human stories were powerful, as had been seen with medicinal cannabis and the Anyone’s Child campaign. ‘It all comes down to the way things are framed, and in the grand scheme of things it’s pennies so it’s worth getting it in front of them. There’s an election coming up so they want to be everyone’s friend. It’s worth a try.’
Words from the floor:
‘People’s personal stories are what changes people’s minds, never mind the evidence.’
‘We need to be radical and transformative in who we network with, whether that’s on social media or in person.’
‘Every year we have Anyone’s Child, and I think it would be good if more users could come along and speak there – because that’s lobbying Parliament.’
‘We’ve got these lines of communication. Let’s use them, let’s network more beyond this room, let’s keep in touch, let’s keep the great work going.’
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Acorn/Delph – Residential treatment, detox and community support in the North West, using lived experience to inspire and motivate change: acornrecovery.org.uk
Aquarius – Midlands-based charity helping people and communities overcome the harms caused by alcohol, drugs and gambling: aquarius.org.uk
B3 – Providing peer support and advocacy to drug and alcohol service users in Brent: www.b-3.org.uk
Ban the Box – a campaign to increase opportunities for people with convictions to compete for jobs: unlock.org.uk/project/ban-the-box
BDP – Bristol Drugs Project is a charity providing harm reduction and treatment services for people who are experiencing a negative relationship with drugs and/or alcohol: www.bdp.org.uk
Bill Nellis – Drug user activist and founder of the Methadone Alliance, now living in Canada: www.facebook.com/IlanBoy2
Broadway Lodge – One of the leading and most respected abstinence-based residential addiction treatment centres in the UK: www.broadwaylodge.org.uk
Dear Albert – Is based in Leicester and helps individuals to stop taking alcohol and drugs while specialising in working directly with providers of substance misuse services and other to achieve better outcomes including successful completions: www.dearalbert.co.uk
Forward Trust: A national charity delivering a range of services and interventions in both communities and prisons aimed at helping people to move forward with their lives: www.forwardtrust.org.uk
George Charlton – An award winning trainer and consultant renowned for developing and co-producing innovative and dynamic user led projects which put people with lived and living experience at the heart of everything: georgecharlton.com
Hep C U Later – Helping people get tested and treated for Hep C: www.hepculater.com
Kenda Reiki – Teaching and offering private Reiki healing, Crystal Healing, Chakra Balancing, Aura Cleansing as well as addiction recovery affirmation cards with in-depth understanding and a guidebooks: www.kendareiki.com
Lynette Fryer – Following a career as a drug and alcohol professional Lynette now offers massage, therapy, healing and wellbeing support sessions aimed at individuals, professionals and organisations: www.lynettefryer.co.uk
Nal Von Minden – Market leader in rapid drug testing, offering the widest range of parameters and test formats for customers including doctors, drug services, police, customs and prisons: nal-vonminden.com/eng
NHS Inclusion – Provide services that include advice, information, harm reduction interventions, recovery planning in conjunction with a range of pharmacological, psychosocial and structured treatment programs: www.inclusion.org
Recovery Cymru – A peer-led, mutual-aid, recovery community in Cardiff and the Vale of Glamorgan that empowers people to achieve and maintain recovery: www.recoverycymru.org.uk
Recovery Street Film Festival – A film festival celebrating people with lived experience of recovery from drug and alcohol use: rsff.co.uk
Spectrum CIC – Delivering services in partnership, with multi-disciplinary teams renowned for excellence in care with clinics across County Durham, South Tyneside, York and North Yorkshire. As well as supporting patients with substance misuse in secure environments: spectrum-cic.org.uk
With You – National charity that offers free confidential support to people who have issues with drugs, alcohol or mental health: www.wearewithyou.org.uk