Drug Deaths Taskforce

Drug Deaths Taskforce Meeting 1 – Chair’s Blog

October 7, 2019 by 3 Comments | Category Chairs Blog, Reflections

Tuesday 19th September was the first meeting of the Drug Deaths Taskforce. It was a nerve racking day making sure we were prepared with background papers, presentations and films as well as meeting some members for the first time, not to mention the press interest and photos afterwards!

After introductions, I presented the plans for living/lived experience involvement and community engagement – see the slide below:

Drug Deaths Taskforce structure: Lived/Living Experience and community engagement

Taskforce structure: Lived/Living Experience and community engagement

This first meeting was about bringing everyone on the Drug Deaths Taskforce up to speed, getting to know everyone around the table and the organisations and the professional groups they represent. We did this by inviting some expert presentations on opiate replacement treatment, the naloxone programme, drug death data and how this is collated, what does ‘a public health emergency’ actually mean? and the drug and alcohol strategy (Rights, Respect and Recovery). These can be viewed online here. Thank you to presenters.

We concluded the morning session with a film in which two people who are currently on opiate replacement treatment described their situation and expressed their personal experiences and the frustrations they have had accessing appropriate care and treatment. Not all lived/living experience can be represented in person so this film was our way of grounding Taskforce members and reminding them of people at the most vulnerable end of drug use. Thank you to all involved in pulling that film together, it was very well received with members noting the lack of involvement of people in decision making about their own care, not addressing the underlying issues that lead to drug use but also the importance of positive therapeutic relationship.

In the afternoon we had a good discussion of the key areas we need to focus on moving forward (from existing evidence) and how to frame these. Members of the group were tasked with forming sub-groups to look in detail at these and report back at the next meeting. We acknowledged in discussions that some of the changes needed are at a system level that will take time to show benefits. I am acutely aware we do not have time. Immediate actions were discussed and there was agreement to action a concerted drive to maximise naloxone distribution and an agreement to develop an anti-stigma strategy.

Work on all of the above will continue between meetings.

Catriona Matheson

Chair of the Drug Death Taskforce

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  • Julie da Costa says:

    Thank you for your comment.

    We have committed to working with key experts, including those with lived and living experience, to address stigma as a way to prevent and reduce related harms. We intend to raise awareness with the workforce across a range of services and organisations to improve practice in a way which will reduce stigma.

    Dual diagnosis with mental health issues can be common among those with addiction issues and we are also committed to reducing stigma around the treatment of mental health, including the use of antidepressants, and strongly encourage those in the public domain to be conscious of the impact that criticism can have on those who rely on such treatments.

  • Aravindan Veiraiah says:

    There are many deficits in the care and access to care experiences by people who use drugs, and I welcome anything this task force can do to improve this.

    I would also like to know how this task force can mitigate for unhealthy responses to drugs use, among users, the public, and health and care staff. Such unhealthy responses include terms like ‘self-medicate’, and ‘used as a coping strategy’, when applied to the use of drugs. To describe the high occurrence of drug use among people who have certain problems or certain demographics is one thing, but to attribute (or even use language that suggests attribution of) therapeutic values to drug use is quite another thing.

    How should we as a society share information about real harms experienced by people in their early years of drug use? How do we truly inform people so that we can avoid drug use itself in the first place without fear about being seen as judgmental? How do we challenge the false perception that people will take some risk- with drugs, sex, driving, etc, and interfering with one will simply increase the risk of harm from another?

    In order to make a real change, I believe that we need all society in partnership with us. How can we achieve that?

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