Pubdate: Fri, 10 Jul 2009
Source: Isle of Wight County Press (UK)
Column: Wight Living
Copyright: 2009 Isle of Wight County Press
Author: Emily Pearce
Bookmark: (Opinion)
Bookmark: (Cannabis - United Kingdom)
Bookmark: (Heroin)
Bookmark: (Methadone)
Bookmark: (Needle Exchange)
Bookmark: (Supervised Injection Sites)
Bookmark: (Treatment)
Bookmark: (Cocaine)


It is estimated that more than 500 Islanders have a  problem with
heroin or crack cocaine.

And according to the IW Drug Action Team, which has described the
Island as the most deprived rural local authority in the south east
region, the true number of so-called problem drug users could be as
high as 621.

Alongside the direct consequences of drug addiction there is a myriad
of problems associated with drug abuse, including its impact on
families, communities and crime rates.

Dealing with these issues on the frontline are staff at the Island
Drug and Alcohol Service (IDAS), which provides treatment and support
for more then 350 clients from its base at Carisbrooke Road, Newport.

This once-failing NHS service has turned itself around since requiring
special measures several years ago, overcoming its previously poor
record of helping addicts get off drugs.

It has also established itself as a high-performing service, well
supported by the Drug Action Team.

At an open day last month, which marked National Tackling Drugs Week,
IDAS team leader Georgia Tuckey said she was proud of the service,
which was far more wide ranging than people might expect.

"The main focus of IDAS is on providing suitable treatment, promoting
physical and psychological health and reducing harm to the individual
and to communities," she said.

"We are a high-performing service in the south east and we function
incredibly well and that's because we are adequately funded. We do not
have waiting lists, for example, and people are seen quickly.

"The Island provides really good quality drug services."

Georgia said one of the things that set IDAS apart was its emphasis on
non-punative treatment.

"Our user feedback is generally quite positive. We have very
experienced people here who understand the needs of the users and I
think it's a very non-judgemental service," she said.

"The staff are warm and friendly and the service is designed to help
people make changes in their lives rather than getting down on them
for being a drug user. We want to help people make

Once a client is referred to IDAS, either by a relative, medical
professional or by self referral, they are assessed and offered
advice, counselling and therapy. They can also be prescribed
substitute medication, such as methadone or subutex, which helps
manage opiate withdrawal.

There are a number of particular problems associated with drug abuse
- -- including the risk of contracting a blood-borne virus or developing
abscesses, the possibility of suffering severe anxiety and the
likelihood of being unable to function socially -- and IDAS has
specific treatment options in place to deal with them.

As part of the service's non-punative ethos, users can, for example,
access a safe needle exchange, where they can obtain clean equipment
and advice on safe injecting. IDAS recognises people will take drugs
and, rather than berate them for it, offers practical advice designed
to keep them safe.

Users can also be tested for viruses such as Hepatitis B and C and are
even offered auricular acupuncture.

"Acupuncture is particularly good for people with addictions in terms
of relieving some of their symptoms, such as sleeplessness, sweating
and poor appetite," said substance misuse and mental health nurse
Heather Churches.

"Clients generally find it very relaxing."

IDAS also runs a separate Family Information Service (IFIS), providing
confidential support and information for family and friends concerned
about a loved one's drug or alcohol use. IFIS helps families deal with
everything from financial difficulties and housing problems to
domestic violence and child welfare issues.

Maryse Plisnier, substance misuse family service co-ordinator, said:
"People are often very isolated and desperate because of the stigma
associated with drugs and alcohol. Often they haven't spoken to anyone
before and it all comes pouring out.

"Everything seems to be tangled together in a huge mess and I try to
make it manageable so they can cope."

There are a number of IDAS-associated groups aimed specifically at
helping women, including Providing Opportunities for Women and
Ensuring Respect (POWER), which offers emotional support as well as
health and beauty treatments and another for pregnant drug users.

Midwife Gill Griffin, who helps mums-to-be reduce their drug use,
said: "The main danger is babies being born addicted and having to
manage their withdrawal. Symptoms can include shaking, screaming and
vomiting and it can take weeks to get the baby stable and it can be
hard for the mum to see because she will feel guilty enough.

"The key thing is early referral so we have plenty of time to build up
a relationship with the girls and support them."

One of the most vital steps taken by IDAS has been to recruit
ex-service users, who can offer candid advice to people trying to
break the cycle of addiction.

Lisa, a 30-year-old mum of four, with a new baby on the way, is one
such individual.

Her story, which began with drinking and smoking cannabis at 13 and
turning to heroin ten years later, is typical among those who turn up
at IDAS seeking help.

"It got bad very quickly. I was injecting whatever I could afford,
costing up to #90 a day, and when I lost my children it was a way of
taking the pain away.

"But in the end I had to give myself a kick up the backside. At IDAS I
had counselling and therapy and that helped me look at things

Lisa has been substance-free for eight months and has regained care of
her children. She also credits her husband of five years for turning
her life around. She now works for peer-led user group RESULT, drawing
on her personal experiences to help IDAS users.

"I thought I would be checked up on and they weren't really there to
help but it's nothing like that.

"You are treated like a person and not a label and it's a friendly,
welcoming, non-judgemental environment. The staff are a brilliant
bunch and the peer support is important, as people are more likely to
be honest with someone like me and I can tell them what it's really

"IDAS helped me change my mindset and feel like I'm an OK person, and
it's nice to be able to feel I'm giving something back. I would say to
anyone who has a problem: 'Come and see for yourself'."

To contact IDAS call 01983 526654. 
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MAP posted-by: Richard Lake