Off the record

Off the recordA frontline drug worker, once a service user himself, warns against being taken in by the politicians’ promises 

I grew up in a northern town and got into drugs the same way most people do, and by 25 found my heroin addiction too much. After six home detoxifications and one hospital admission the penny dropped that I was very ill and needed to stop using, which I did. Naltrexone played a part in this and a good structured daycare service allowed me to understand my addiction and reassess what I wanted out of life.

I started volunteering at my service doing art sessions then facilitating relapse prevention sessions. The service liked my work and after a lot of hard work found funding for a one-year part-time trainee drugs worker post, which I completed. Eventually I ended up running the structured daycare programme full time and did this for many years, after which I temped all over – inpatient detoxification unit, prescribing/dual diagnosis service, DRR service, prescribing and more.

My current post is working in a dual diagnosis/prescribing service in a rundown northern city where heroin is still the drug of choice, despite national trends, and I want to share my thoughts on the things I see and hear as a frontline drug worker. IDS and the DWP do not care about drug users. They do not care about ‘the methadone industry keeping people addicted’. What they care about is money, full stop, and this war on the methadone industry will give no alternative other than dealer supply. But at least the dealers can cover the phones 24/7 when services are usually stuck with 9 to 5.

In my opinion the only way to move forward is to keep working with people on all fronts of addiction. NA, structured daycare that moves to volunteering and education, and even prescribing services all have their place in helping people move forward.

If we are not careful to appreciate our services IDS will say they are not fit for purpose and we will be back to the mid ’90s – from what I hear prisons are already at mid ’90s standards. Yes drugs are continuing to change, but drug use is increasing while service provision is reducing, so please don’t buy into politicians telling you that you deserve better while taking away the little you have.

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