Drink and Drugs News DDN September 2018 - Page 10

ExchangE Treating people as individuals, coupled with genuine multi-agency working, is the key to addressing problematic synthetic cannabinoid use, says Minesh Patel the Personalised aPProach THE USE OF SYNTHETIC CANNABINOIDS HAS BECOME A VISIBLE PROBLEM in many town centres, as their side effects – which can include confusion, dizziness and loss of muscle control – are often more noticeable than those of other substances. Synthetic cannabinoids are having the most severe impact among individuals with multiple vulnerabilities, particularly rough sleepers. Synthetic cannabinoid mixes are cheap, strong and readily available – commonly referred to as ‘Spice’ or ‘Mamba’, these names point to a range of mixes with different chemical concentrations and markedly different side effects. In late 2017, visible synthetic cannabinoid use in the town centre of Worksop, Nottinghamshire led to serious concerns being raised by elected council members, shopkeepers and others. Increased levels of anti-social behaviour and crime were being linked to synthetic cannabinoids and the result was a call for a multi-agency response, funded by Bassetlaw District Council and the office of the Nottinghamshire police and crime commissioner (PCC). This multi-agency project came to be known as Project Steppingstones. Project Steppingstones started with a process to identify the individuals in most need of support. Information gathering was co-ordinated by Bassetlaw DC with support from Change Grow Live (CGL), the social care team at Nottinghamshire County Council, the police, probation services, DWP and local NHS mental health teams. Secure protocols for information sharing were put in place, and 40 people with longstanding connections to Worksop were identified – all 40 were displaying signs of problematic Spice use, and some were sleeping rough. Bassetlaw DC then constructed detailed profiles of the 40 individuals, which highlighted multiple long-term vulnerabilities including repetitive low level offending and antisocial behaviour, as well as physical and mental trauma often linked to childhood experiences. These profiles would form the basis of an individualised programme of support. The aim of the project was clearly defined from the outset – to support the identified cohort to make positive changes in their lives by reducing their substance misuse, improving their mental Adfam and London Friend are offering much-needed support to families whose loved ones are experiencing chemsex addiction, as Robert Stebbings explains AN INNOVATIVE NEW PROJECT FROM LONDON FRIEND AND ADFAM is piloting support for families, partners and friends of people that are engaging problematically in chemsex. Three new face-to-face support groups are starting this month in London, while an online information resource will soon be available and free to download. Chemsex is the use of drugs during sex to enhance an uninhibited experience. It predominantly takes place between men in the gay community and the drugs typically involved are methamphetamine, mephedrone and GHB/GBL. Sometimes the drugs are injected, known as ‘slamming’. It can encourage risky behaviours such as condomless sex and sharing needles, putting people in danger of HIV or other sexually transmitted infections. There is also the evident risk of drug use combined with sexual activity reducing people’s ability to keep themselves safe, while there is also the significant risk of overdose when using GHB. 10 | drinkanddrugsnews | September 2018 Supporting a friend, partner, or family member affected by problematic alcohol or drug use can be difficult, including when a loved one is engaging in chemsex. It can have a hugely detrimental impact on the wellbeing of affected others, whether that’s families, partners or friends. London Friend’s drug and alcohol service Antidote already provides lots of support for chemsex users but there has been no support for partners, friends or family who are affected by their using. Although family support groups exist, they are not generally LGBT specific, and people attending may not feel comfortable talking about a same-sex partner, or about sensitive issues such as chemsex. People often become increasingly isolated, with nowhere to turn. This important intervention will provide those affected with the specific support they need and the space to meet and share with others affected by this issue, who can properly associate with what they are going through. To achieve this we are piloting three different groups: a weekly group for parents (six weeks); a weekly group for friends/partners (six weeks); and a monthly informal drop-in (four sessions). All sessions are hosted by London Friend at 86 Caledonian Road, King’s Cross, London N1 9DN. If you are based in or close to London and interested in attending one of these groups and would like to find out more, visit our website: www.adfam.org.uk/our-work/supporting- families/chemsex or get in touch with Jason@londonfriend.org.uk. Robert Stebbings is policy and communications assistant at Adfam www.drinkanddrugsnews.com