Addaction works across Fife to help reduce drug harm

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Addaction is the largest provider of drug and alcohol support in Scotland.

Its first Scottish service started in 2004 and the charity now has distinct services across the country, from Dundee to Stranraer.

In Fife, the team is based at The Annexe in The Grieg Institute, Leven.

It also operates an outreach harm reduction van which visits local communities across the Kingdom every week.

Project worker Kerry Watson started with the Fife service in October 2014 but the former mental health nurse has worked in the field of addiction since 2005 and is passionate about helping drug users stay safe.

Explaining why, Kerry said: “I have never come across anyone who wanted to get addicted.

“Often there has been trauma or adverse childhood experiences and people self-medicate to help them forget and to deal with life.

“At Addaction we work with people without judgement or requiring them to stop using drugs.

“We don’t want people to struggle with addiction on their own or be held back by stigma or pride.

“Addaction is here to help everyone – we would love to hear from you.”

Addaction Fife’s services focus on reducing the harms associated with injecting drug use.

This includes reducing the spread of blood-borne viruses so providing easy access to clean injecting equipment is a cornerstone of its work.

The charity’s four-strong team in Fife also makes sure that people use the correct needle for their injecting site and promote safer injecting techniques.

They can help users facilitate the transition from using a needle to foil too, which is a safer method of administration.

Kerry said: “Both our outreach and Leven teams provide clean injecting equipment, foil, dry blood spot testing for Hepatitis B, C and HIV, referral for treatment, sharps disposal and returns, condoms, feminine hygiene products advice and information.

“Addaction web chat is also available for support, Monday to Friday from 10am to 4pm and 6pm to 9pm, and on Saturdays and Sundays from 11am to 4pm.

“We aim to help people change their behaviour to become the very best that they can be.

“We believe that everyone can change and we support them to do it.”

In 2017, Scotland’s drug related death figure was 934 – the highest number since records began – and 867 of these deaths were deemed accidental.

Fife’s figure in 2017 was 66 fatalities with 61 being deemed accidental.

An increasing number of fatalities are female, both nationwide and locally.

But it might surprise you to learn that younger people are not actually at most risk.

Kerry said: “The age bracket that experiences the most fatalities is 35 to 44-year-olds – 360 of the 934 fatalities recorded in 2017 were in this age bracket.

“Sometimes we lose people to fatal overdose after they have been doing well in recovery. Someone may lapse and they don’t have the same tolerance they used to.

“People also use multiple types of drugs, mixing a number of substances which impacts on their body’s ability to regulate breathing.

“I am really passionate about preventing overdose as it is someone’s son, daughter, sister, brother, mum or dad.”

To help prevent deaths, Addaction distributes special kits to help those who have overdosed on opiates.

And Kerry works with local organisations to raise overdose awarness.

She explained: “We offer Naloxone kits to help people who overdose on opiates.

“There are five doses, each in a 2ml pre-filled syringe. Each dose can be administered every two to three minutes through clothing into the arm or thigh, combined with CPR if the person is not breathing.

“Naloxone can temporarily reverse the effects of opiates if used just after someone overdoses.

“It can buy that person around 25 to 30 minutes, until an ambulance arrives.

“A kit costs around £20 but you can’t put a price on saving someone’s life.”

Kerry has trained 250 people at foodbanks, council offices, criminal justice departments, residents’ groups and hostels, as well as at one-to-one overdose intervention sessions.

She also manages the Facebook page Naloxone Fife where people can find out more about the kits.

To self-refer to Addaction, call 01333 433636 or visit www.addaction.org.uk/services/addaction-fife.

Mum founded charity in 1967

Addaction began with an article published in The Guardian on February 24, 1967, from Mollie Craven.

Mollie had first-hand experience of dealing with substance misuse – her son was addicted to heroin by the age of 18.

Feeling powerless to help, Mollie wrote: “We parents of addicts are a neglected and ignored group. I would like to appeal to everyone interested in this agonising problem to form an association.

“We can help each other, we can help with research into the problem and its origin and cure; we can co-operate with the new legislation; in many ways we can help each other’s children where we cannot help our own.”

She founded APA – Association for Parents of Addicts.

Initially very small, it delivered a number of drop-in services funded by donations and grants and offered a safe, non-judgemental place to go with tea, empathy and counselling.

That small support group became Addaction and in 2017, it celebrated its 50th year.

Addaction Fife is a specialist harm reduction service that offers a far wider range of equipment than pharmacy based exchanges.

It also provides a range of other services to help reduce drug related harm including:

One to one assessment, referral and support into treatment (if requested);

Overdose prevention work including access to the Take Home Naloxone programme (THN);

Blood borne virus testing for HIV and Hepatitis;

Safer drug use advice and information;

Needle syringe provision and needle exchange;

Free condoms and sexual health advice;

Help to stop injecting;

And a mobile outreach clinic.