A range of ‘substances’ may be misused with harmful effects on health. There are separate web pages for alcohol and tobacco; this page summarizes information on opiate and non-opiate use. In Somerset the work to tackle the harm associated with substance misuse is co-ordinated through Somerset Drug and Alcohol Partnership (SDAP).
There has been a change in the substance profile for those accessing treatment in Somerset over the past few years. Changes in service delivery and commissioning priorities have resulted in large increases in the number of non-opiate (and alcohol) users accessing services whilst the number of opiate users has remained relatively stable. When compared to national data for 2014/15, Somerset has a slightly larger proportion of alcohol users and a slightly lower proportion of opiate users in treatment. Of those who have presented to treatment since April 2014 where the episode has closed, 58% were recorded as ‘Treatment Completed – Drug/Alcohol Free’ or ‘Occasional User (not opiate or crack)’.
|Numbers in Structured Treatment. SOURCE: NDTMS
||Apr12 to Mar 13
||Apr13 to Mar 14
||Apr14 to Mar15
||Apr15 to Mar16
|Non-opiate and alcohol
Opiate users made up 81% of all referrals from the criminal justice system in 2014/15 and 74% in 2015/16. There is a close association between deprivation and drug use
Key Issues Nationally
- The coalition government's Drug strategy 2010 reported that drug use costs the UK economy £15.4 billion a year.
- From April 2013, the commissioning of substance misuse treatment services (for drugs and alcohol misuse) was transferred to local authorities, supported by health and wellbeing boards (Health and Social Care Act 2012).
- From 2010 to 2011, according to a Health and Social Care Information Centre's Statistics on drug misuse: England 2013, there were nearly 300,000 opiate and/or crack users in England.
- Problem drug use does not happen in a vacuum and there are frequently links to a range of other factors such as mental health, alcohol misuse and homelessness.
- Many acquisitive crimes (including theft, burglary and robbery) are committed by people whose drug use has become an addiction. Their offending often escalates to keep up with the rising cost of their drug use. Some also support their drug use with low-level dealing or prostitution.
Drug Misuse Services in Somerset
Tier 1 – advice and information
Advice and information about drugs and alcohol is provided, and signposting to other help if it is needed, including help for people who may be affected by parents’ or carers’ drug or alcohol use.
Who provides it?
Staff from a range of organisations across the county, including health centres, schools, early years’ provision, family support, social work and others.
Websites offering confidential information and advice, including where to get more help, can be found on the Somerset Drug and Alcohol Partnership website: www.somersetdap.org.uk
For information about drugs:
Tier 2 – brief interventions
If people are using drugs or alcohol and experiencing some problems, they can be offered screening or an assessment to help to identify what is going on and who and what can help. People may then be offered:
Advice and information
Brief interventions to help them identify and make changes to their use and find alternatives
Harm reduction advice
Referral to more specialist services such as Tier 3 drug/alcohol treatment if needed, and support to access and engage with that service
Relapse prevention work.
Who provides it?
Staff from a wide range of agencies and voluntary groups who are people-focused with some drug and alcohol experience, including youth workers, counsellors, student support in schools and colleges, school nurses and supported housing workers. Also specifically within Further Education Colleges in Somerset, and the Somerset Targeted Youth Support Service.
In Further Education Colleges:
there are staff trained to work to Tier 2 level and can support students with drug and alcohol problems.
Targeted Youth Support Service (TYSS):
Work with young people aged 13-19 years old, where drug and alcohol problems are beginning to affect their lives.
Tier 3 – Drug and Alcohol treatment interventions
If people are using drugs and/or alcohol regularly and in a way that is putting them at risk, they can access structured treatment interventions provided by specialist staff. They can include:
More specialist harm reduction work
Detoxification and access to residential rehabilitation if needed
Housing support including accommodation and mediation/crisis support is also available
Who provides it?
Staff in Somerset Drug and Alcohol Service (SDAS), including their dedicated recovery workers. They work with young people of any age, and also with adults. They also work closely with other services.
Contact details for SDAS:
Phone: 0300 303 87 88 - 24 hours a day, 7 days a week
Details about local services and lots of other useful information for adults, young people, families, carers and friends and professionals are available on the Somerset Drug and Alcohol Partnership website www.somersetdap.org.uk.
Somerset Drug and Alcohol Partnership plans, commissions and monitors the Somerset Drug and Alcohol Service (SDAS), and can be contacted at Somerset County Council 01823 357111 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org
New Psychoactive Substances (‘Legal Highs’)
New Psychoactive Substances (NPS) or ‘legal highs’ are substances which may produce effects similar to illegal stimulants and psychoactive drugs such as cocaine, ecstasy, cannabis and LSD. Legal Highs are dangerous because they are:
- Not controlled under legislation by the 1971 Misuse of Drugs Act
- Not licensed for legal use (like alcohol and tobacco)
- Not medicines, and therefore not regulated by the 1968 Medicines Act.
It is illegal to sell, supply or advertise legal highs for human consumption.
To evade the law, sellers often refer to these substances as research chemicals, plant food, bath crystals, herbal incense or room deodorisers. The term ‘legal high’ however is misleading as some of these substances do contain illegal drugs, as well as chemicals which can be highly dangerous and not suitable for human use.
Are ‘legal highs’ safe?
No, definitely not. Virtually all legal highs have never undergone human medical research so we simply don’t know what effect they will have until people start using them. Those that have undergone medical research are substances that have been withdrawn because of the serious harms and severe risk of addiction that was identified during that research.
There is no guarantee that different batches of the same product will contain the same dose of substances, or even the same substances. Most importantly, the long-term effects of legal highs use are completely unknown.
Author: Public Health Somerset