New trends in drug use – including the so-called ‘legal highs’ – are prompting a fresh approach to the ways substance misuse is tackled in Leicestershire.
‘Legal highs’ bring with them a new range of risks and consequences for users, said a leading county clinician.
Speaking on the International Day Against Drug Abuse, Dr Peter Cannon, a clinical lead GP for West Leicestershire Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), said: “Better services to deal with drug misuse are a priority for our CCG, requiring close co-operation between the organisations which emerged from the recent restructuring of the NHS.”
In Leicestershire these include public health, the county council, the police and criminal justice system, and Swanswell, the contracted provider of medical drug and alcohol services, as well as the area’s GP-led clinical commissioning groups.
Dr Cannon added: “We are now increasingly providing a more primary care based approach - frontline help in a community setting - with more emphasis on recovery from drug addiction, while taking into account the changes taking place in drug misuse. For instance, there is a decline in the use of opiates, like heroin, but an increase in novel drugs, the so-called ‘legal highs’, which bring with them a new range of risks and consequences for users.
“Recovery itself should be seen as a personal journey for each individual with milestones along the way such as finding accommodation, stopping criminal behaviour, perhaps getting a job, as well as coming off drugs”.
Stronger multi-agency working will ensure that drug misusers as well as their families and carers are offered an accessible and whole-person system of care.
The West Leicestershire CCG clinical lead added: “Commissioners recognise that they need to be constantly monitoring and reviewing strategies in a fast and changing landscape influenced by the media and internet, particularly for younger persons’ services.”
Dr Cannon also highlighted the large overlap between drug misuse, alcohol misuse and mental health problems such as depression, anxiety and psychosis. In addition, there are higher rates of physical health issues including heart, lung, liver and infectious diseases.
“This vulnerable group of patients often find it difficult to get help with these health problems and suffer a double whammy of high health needs but poor health access. We must do better in engaging and helping them starting with something very basic – a caring, welcoming and non-judgemental attitude whenever they come into contact with us”, said Dr Cannon.