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Tagged In:  Alcohol, Drugs, Substance Misuse

At a time when drugs related deaths are at an all time high, Public Health England (PHE) has just updated its ‘Good practice for commissioning substance misuse’ drugs and alcohol guidance. 

The update comes as the Office for National Statistics (ONS) reveals that drug-related deaths in England and Wales registered in 2015, is the highest number ever recorded at 3674.
67% of those deaths, 2479, were drug misuse deaths involving illegal drugs, with males three times more likely to die from drug misuse than females.
PHE’s guidance recognises the scale of the problem and in its introduction says the emergence of addictions to new psychoactive substances as well as “image and performance-enhancing drugs” is a growing concern and a real challenge for substance misuse professionals.
Contained within its revised guidance are six key principles, which PHE says should be covered in an integrated alcohol and drugs prevention, treatment and recovery system:

  • Early identification to prevent dependence 
  • Quick access to the right treatment 
  • Interventions to address additional health harms 
  • Recovery-oriented treatments 
  • Sustained recovery options preferred
  • Local authority public health commissioners to work closer together to commission the best treatment options

Of direct interest to substance misuse nurses, and in particular, clinical leads, is the inclusion of two sub-sections (some of which offer newly updated advice). 

These include a list of what you should be witnessing at a local level if the principles are being followed and what questions you should ask about services to find out if they are being met. 

For alcohol prevention, which in many ways is of a greater concern for substance misuse teams, the advice follows a similar pattern although there is more of a focus on what the PHE describes as taking “effective population-level actions” to reduce alcohol related harm. This is far beyond the day-to-day responsibilities of the substance misuse nurse, but does go some way to recognise that something more wide-reaching needs to be done to tackle alcohol abuse. After all, over 1.6 million adults show signs of alcohol dependence and it’s a causal factor in over 60 medical conditions. 

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