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Substance Use – A Whole System Approach to Managing Substance Use

Posted on: 6 June, 2024

Our substance use recommendations aim to support people who use drugs, irrespective of their current circumstance. We aim to offer a suite of services which provide options for both those who wish to halt their use entirely, and those who do not wish to do so, but would benefit from support to reduce harm, be healthier and stay alive. 

We know from global evidence what works, but the pace at which evidence-based schemes are being implemented means that providers such as Cranstoun are seeing constantly increasing tragic drug deaths. It doesn’t have to be this way.  

Proven solutions including Diamorphine Assisted Treatment, Overdose Prevention Centres and drug checking – working in tandem encompassing a whole system approach – already exist but the scale is too small – it is time to follow the evidence to save lives. 

The problem is particularly stark given the significant threat of further contaminations of synthetic drugs – namely nitazenes and xylazine – into the drug supply. We must address this now by implementing a health-focused, Whole System approach to managing substance use. Otherwise, like the US, we could be facing a public health emergency.  

Harm caused by legal substances, like alcohol, must be addressed too – with alcohol being responsible for the deaths of 10,000 people in 2022. It is time to get a handle on this crisis and promote better health.  

Annie Steele, Assistant Director of Substance Use Services at Cranstoun, said:

“We’re launching our substance use policy recommendations for the General Election on July 4th 

“Deaths from illicit substances remain at an all-time high in the UK and have risen each individual year of the last Parliamentary term. Furthermore, the rise in potent synthetic opioids creates new challenges for the treatment sector, and any eventual government must do much more to combat this emerging threat. This includes listening to treatment partners, people with lived experience and following the global evidence on how to reduce drug related deaths and harm. 

“More must be done to address the increasing numbers of people both being admitted to hospital and dying because of excessive alcohol consumption.  

“Harm caused by substance use is disproportionately higher in the UK than many of our neighbouring countries, and this is an enormous shame on our country.  

“We are calling on all candidates, and any eventual government to recognise the severity of the situation, and work cohesively to reduce fatalities, reduce harm and promote a healthier and safer society.” 

Here are our solutions: 

  • A health-based approach to issues related to illicit substances, rooted in evidence.
  • Expansion and funding for existing harm reduction measures including OPCs, DAT and drug checking.
  • Ensure abstinence from substance use is never a pre-condition for a safe home.
  • Longer terms for the procurement of government substance use treatment contracts.
  • A public health campaign focused on engaging more people in alcohol treatment earlier.
  • Support innovative outreach schemes for people who are street homeless and use substances.

View our full report and recommendations here

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