COVID-19 has presented unique healthcare challenges – but represents a very real challenge to vulnerable groups such as those who have drug and alcohol problems.
It is estimated that over half of the 60,000 or so people with drug problems in Scotland are over the age of 35 and have multiple co-morbidities, including COPD, making them a vulnerable high-risk group in relation to COVID-19. At the same time, the challenges of lockdown, constraints around face-to-face service delivery as well as social isolation can greatly increase the risk of disengagement from service, relapse, overdose or drug-related death.
Speaking ahead of International Drug Overdose Awareness Day this Sunday August 31, chair of Dumfries and Galloway Alcohol and Drug Partnership (ADP) Grahame Clarke said: “People with drug and alcohol problems are among the most vulnerable members of our communities, and among those vulnerable to the effects not just of the coronavirus itself but also the resulting response, including lockdown and the contraction of services.
“As such, it is vitally important that front line staff in contact with people who have drug or alcohol issues or who are providing a service to them understand the impact the pandemic might have on the individual and know where help can be obtained – either from within their own organisation or from other services.
“With this in mind Dumfries and Galloway Alcohol and Drug Partnership (ADP) has been running an awareness campaign aimed at the staff and the volunteers who work within Dumfries and Galloway Health and Social Care Partnership. The campaign has highlighted the challenges faced by those with drug and alcohol problems and provided information on how these individuals can be supported on their recovery journey, reducing the risk of harm to them.”
The campaign has featured four key themes which the Drug and Alcohol Partnership feel should also be understood by anyone who knows someone with a drug or alcohol issue during the COVID period.
Mr Clarke said: “COVID has a huge challenge on all of us, but it poses a particular challenge to vulnerable people – including those with drug and alcohol problems.
“Our work recently has been about engaging with those people in health and social care whose work brings them into contact with these vulnerable people and making them aware of what a challenge it is to them, and what they can do to help them overcome these challenges.
“There is no reason why people with drug and alcohol problems cannot continue to access their GP practice, or consult with a specialist drug or alcohol service, as many will have issues and ailments which need to be tended to, and these can continue to be addressed. They shouldn’t be put off or think COVID is more important.
“It’s about encouraging people with alcohol and drug problems not to change their behaviours – don’t try new things, don’t change the amount that you take, don’t take it in new way, don’t try new drugs and don’t mix drugs. These are some of the dangers which exist.
“Isolation as a result of COVID can have a particular impact on people with alcohol and drug difficulties, with less face-to-face contact and less social support. This can have an impact on mental health and how they deal with isolation, and all of that can build and have quite a profound effect on them, and their use of drugs and alcohol.
“In these situations it’s about having discussions, it’s about making them aware of the services which can help them and encouraging them to contact those services and seek help early get as much help as they possibly can.”
A full list of contact details for services within the region which can provide support are available on the Dumfries and Galloway Alcohol and Drug Partnership website https://dghscp.co.uk/alcohol-drugs-partnership-adp/
Grahame said: “My plea is if you have any concern about anyone you know then please do pick up the phone to us or the services, or encourage them to get in touch, because it’s vitally important that we support this vulnerable group at this very challenging time.”