Addictions Crisis Requires ‘Structural Overhaul’ and ‘Huge Investment’

23 August 2018

Alcohol misuse as the ‘greatest healthcare problem facing Northern Ireland’

Addictions Crisis Requires ‘Structural Overhaul’ and ‘Huge Investment’

Following reports of increasing levels of alcohol and substance use and misuse, Alex Bunting, Director of Addiction NI, has restated his belief that: ‘Only a structural overhaul of addiction services accompanied by huge investment in mental health services to make it happen will arrest this health crisis’.

He said: ‘Recently, Coroner Joe McCrisken, described alcohol misuse as the ‘greatest healthcare problem facing Northern Ireland’’.

Between 2001 and 2016, more than 3,500 deaths in Northern Ireland were attributed to alcohol and these statistics don't include cases where alcohol was involved, such as car accidents or conditions like heart attacks and strokes that may be caused by chronic alcohol misuse.

Critically, says Bunting, the latest available figures provided by the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency (NISRA), are the highest on record since reporting began: ‘In short, if we don’t review the current funding model and support for mental health services things will continue to deteriorate.’

Similarly, there has been an increasing focus by the media on substance use and misuse, particularly heroin use. Mr Bunting stated that: ‘While we welcome the spotlight that these issues are under, it has been a long time coming. Before perhaps there was a sense that “it won’t affect me”. Now these issues are affecting every street and every town. Our addiction problems are now so visible that we as a society can no longer avoid it.’

The fact that the waiting list for heroin users in Belfast to get on to a substitute prescribing programme stands at a minimum of 29 to a maximum of 38 weeks shows the need for a radical rethink of the addiction services strategy.’

‘If we don’t act now, the long term consequences for our society both socially and in terms of the future financial demands on our health services, will be enormous.’

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