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Why I am not surprised by the increase in drug-related deaths

By Chip Somers

This week I was invited onto Sky News for an interview with Kay Burley. She wanted to talk to me about the recent increase in drug-related deaths. According to the Office for National Statistics. The number of drug-related deaths in England and Wales reached record levels last year. Deaths involving heroin and cocaine have reached their highest levels since records began in the thirties.

This report has no surprise factor for me – I fact, it’s sadly, totally to be expected. As I told Kay, drugs are so more available and so much cheaper than when I was using in the 70s. I had to try very hard to find the drugs in the first place, and then spend the equivalent of £95 on a wrap. But these days you can pick up the same amount for around £70. Another factor, of course is the increased purity – leading to accidental overdose.

Kate wanted to know why I thought fatalities were at such a record high. Well, the answer is easy. Funding for treatment has been cut back drastically, leaving people with drug problems to continue in the addiction cycle. Without help, they will continue to use drugs and some will die.

The government’s harm reduction programme is totally flawed too. This approach means giving out methadone prescriptions to addicts who will never get the chance to get well. Kept in addiction these people are left to rot – stuck on a heroin substitute and usually supplementing it with the real stuff whenever they can. By avoiding treating the underlying reasons why people are taking drugs, this country is giving up on addicts. It’s so unnecessary - it’s an illness, like any other, that can be successfully treated.

With fewer Local Authority funded treatment options, the only places people with drug problems can go are residential rehabs – which are very costly and mean weeks away from home, work and family. The answer, in my opinion, is ‘Dayhab’. More affordable yet just as effective, non-residential treatment enables more people to get the help they need. People can recover close to home and continue to work, study or care for family. While not free – they have to cover costs and pay their staff – Dayhabs such as Help Me Stop, where I am Clinical Director, bridge a much-needed gap in the treatment landscape.

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