Lanarkshire is leading the way in drug treatment
Written by Scott Campbell.
Published at 19:20 GMT on Tuesday 5th March, 2013.

IT HAS been announced that NHS Lanarkshire is leading the way in drug treatment. 

The comments by the region’s health board come after 7 were hospitalised after taking ‘Rockstar’ tablets.

Now though, a recovering drug addict is urging others to quit, after successfully turning his life around, with help from NHS Lanarkshire.

For those who have a problem with drugs, getting help can seem like a big leap. Recovering from addiction is a journey and NHS Lanarkshire is ready to help each step of the way.

David, whose name has been changed to protect the patient’s identity, was 16 years old when his friends mum gave him some heroin. It was from then that his life snowballed out of his control.

A year later, his mum had asked him to leave the family home and he was living on the streets.

David said: “When I tried to stop using the drugs, I realised I was dependent on them. Things started to go wrong when I couldn’t get my hands on the drugs that I needed. I started doing anything I could do to get them, including shoplifting, stealing and dealing.”

After being arrested, a court referred David to the Lanarkshire Drug Treatment and Testing Order Team.

NHS Lanarkshire is leading the way within Scotland in the use of alternatives to methadone, such as Suboxone.

Around 25 per cent of people on drug treatments for addiction in Lanarkshire are now prescribed Suboxone. It deters patients from taking other drugs while using it.

David said: “Suboxone gave me breathing space. I initially ran off to take more drugs but they didn’t have any effect on me. After a week, I was completely comfortable with the medication. I had no physical symptoms or withdrawal from the drugs.

Dr Steve Conroy, Lanarkshire Drug Treatment and Testing Order Team, said: “Suboxone is a much cleaner medication. People on Suboxone feel healthier and much more able to engage with society.

“Patients also feel less stigmatised as they do not need to stand in front of everyone in a pharmacy drinking methadone. It comes in tablet form and makes them feel like a normal customer popping into the pharmacy rather than feeling as if people are staring at them.”

NHS Lanarkshire was the first board in Scotland to prescribe Suboxone and is the only board swapping people from methadone to Suboxone within the community. As a result, drug deaths in Lanarkshire are falling, where the national figure has risen by 20 per cent.

Dr Conroy added: “Although no opiate is entirely safe, Suboxone can be a lot safer than methadone as it is safer in the overdose situation.

“People on Suboxone are generally able to lead more stable lives. It is easier to detoxify from Suboxone which helps people to become drug free.”

David added: “Suboxone makes you feel like a normal person without the urge to go and get a hit. I no longer needed to take drugs to do simple tasks in life such as going to the shops. After starting out on the highest dose available, I am now on the lowest and hope to get to the stage where I can come off it completely.”

Patients are also offered psychological therapies to get to the root cause of their drug problem.

Dr Michelle Cook, clinical psychologist for the addiction psychology service, said: “People who are addicted to drugs can feel stigmatised. However a lot of them haven’t brought their difficulties on themselves.

“Providing talking therapies is about addressing the difficulties that the person has had in their life that contributed to their drug use.

“Key workers have experience in noticing those who have psychological issues in addition to their addiction. They can work with clients to build skills in managing their difficulties and improve the stability of their drug use and other circumstances.

“When the patient is referred to a psychologist, we can then offer in-depth psychological therapy in relation to their mental health, for example depression, anxiety and trauma.

Patients who are stable and are looking to lead independent lives are then referred to the community prescribing service.

Duncan Hill, Specialist Pharmacist in Substance Misuse, said: “The service prescribes medication to more stable patients in the community and encourages them on the road to recovery.

“We use pharmacists and nurses to prescribe to medication, which frees up time for experienced doctors to cope with the more difficult medical side. They also have clinic times when the patients come until they are completely off their medication and are no longer dependent on drugs.

“The service provides them with support and identifies when they are struggling.”

David is now turning his life around. He doesn’t use drugs and no longer lives on the streets. He now wants to help others like him and is enrolling in college to complete a Scottish Vocational Qualification in healthcare.
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