Drug and alcohol support services are being enhanced in the Forth Valley in a bid to cut the risk of death from substance use.
In 2020, there were 1,339 drug-related deaths across Scotland, and of these 77 were in the Forth Valley area.
However, new measures will include a one-stop shop approach to gain faster access to treatment, an outreach team to respond to those who have experienced a drug overdose and the provision of Buvidal – a long-acting medication which supports people with an opiate dependency .
More than 90 people in Forth Valley are now prescribed Buvidal, among them a 50-year-old man from Clackmannanshire, who says the monthly injection has been “a life changer” for him.
He said: “I became a drug user after I lost my daughter’s mum in traumatic circumstances.
“For four years I was addicted to heroin and then for 20 years after I was hooked on methadone although I always managed to hold down a job.
“In August last year I went away to work in a hotel in the middle of nowhere. Buvidal was suggested to me by my support worker and it’s given me a whole new lease of life.
“I gave up my Valium prescription when I went on to Buvidal and felt that if this had been available 20 years ago then there wouldn’t perhaps have been as many deaths due to people mixing methadone with other drugs.
“I’m feeling good. It used to be the whole rigmarole of having to go to the chemist every day and bumping into someone you know. If you’d had a bad day and were feeling vulnerable there was always the risk of temptation.
“I am just starting to get my life back together again from being homeless. I now have accommodation and I am hoping I may be able to stop the Buvidal next year.”
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Ross Cheape, NHS Forth Valley’s Service Manager for Substance Use Services and Service Development, said: “We are working with partners across local health and social care services to implement the Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT) Standards which increase the efficiency and enhance the quality of our existing services.
“Buvidal is a relatively new treatment for opiate dependence and our clinical teams in NHS Forth Valley have been at the forefront of its implementation.
“It isn’t the right option for everyone, but the principle here is that patients have greater choice in treatment, and we are pleased to be able to deliver that.”
The move towards increasing help for people with addictions is the result of additional funding to all health boards and Health and Social Care Partnerships in Scotland from the Scottish Government.
Recently published data has shown that Forth Valley is performing very well on the distribution of Naloxone, an overdose reversal medication, which can be used by anyone who has received training on its use.
The drug is being distributed by local pharmacies, harm reduction services, drug and alcohol services, mental health facilities and by peers within the Forth Valley Recovery Community.
But NHS Forth Valley’s Substance Use Strategy Co-ordinator, Elaine Lawlor, said: “Although the number of drug deaths has fallen slightly across Scotland, Forth Valley must continue to do all we can to reduce these cases further, as too many people remain at risk of serious harm.
“The key to success is getting those with a substance use problem as quickly as possible. We are putting in place a team of people who will be able to provide support to people who experience a near-fatal overdose. The team will rapidly undertake an assessment and help the individual to access treatment and care or provide other support to reduce the risk of further harm to their health.”
Anyone in Forth Valley who is likely to find someone experiencing an overdose in their family, their community, their workplace or in a public place can request a Naloxone kit and be trained on how to use it. For more details contact your local pharmacy or see the alcohol and drug help and support page on the NHS Forth Valley website.
George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.