Working together is the best way to reduce alcohol and drug harm - Public Health Dorset
Working together is the best way to reduce alcohol and drug harm
Most people in Dorset drink alcohol within the national guidelines and most people don’t use drugs either, but the risks and consequences to communities are still real. Dr Will Haydock, senior health programme advisor at Public Health Dorset, talks about alcohol and drug use and how agencies across Dorset are joining forces to tackle it.
By Dr Will Haydock
Most of us enjoy alcohol without suffering any serious negative consequences, and most people don’t misuse other drugs – but there are many problems that can relate to drinking or taking other substances.
We might immediately think of addiction or dependency, but even drinking below these levels can increase your risk of suffering from cancer, heart disease and many other health conditions.
And there can be immediate risks to yourself and others. Drug and alcohol use are implicated in crime and disorder, such as theft to fund addiction, violent crime, traffic collisions, and neglect or abuse of children and vulnerable adults.
Behaviour is changing
As a country, we’re drinking less and using drugs less frequently than 10 years ago, but there are some important changes that present challenges.
New psychoactive substances, commonly known as ‘legal highs’, are emerging every week. This brings real challenges for local councils, the police, and organisations offering treatment for drug misuse.
Older people are drinking more than they used to, and we don’t know how this will develop as the ‘baby boomer’ generation retires.
There is also an ageing group of drug users, who started using heroin or other drugs in the 1980s or 1990s and are still struggling with the long-term consequences of this.
We’re working on it
Given the range of problems alcohol and other drugs can cause, it’s no surprise that there are many organisations that have a role in reducing harm. Hospitals, GPs, specialist treatment services, police, local councils, probation, prisons, producers and retailers of alcohol – all these and more have a place in our future strategy to address harm across Dorset.
We’ve made progress in the last few years, from making Horseshoe Common in Bournemouth a more attractive and safer part of the night-time economy, to engaging most people who use heroin or crack cocaine in treatment, reducing risks of HIV and hepatitis transmission and promoting recovery from substance misuse.
But there’s more to do
That’s why we’ve launched a new strategy to commit to working together over the next four years. Its vision is clear:
We aim for everyone living in Bournemouth, Poole and Dorset to have a balanced attitude to alcohol and other drugs, and we have an ambition for sustained recovery from substance misuse, reducing harm to individuals and the wider community.
As we do this, we will develop services that suit the needs of the person needing help as well as their families and the wider community. This is about focusing on the people and areas that need support the most.
And to make this vision a reality, we’ll need to work in partnership, making the best of all resources in our communities to deliver the most effective and efficient services possible for local people.
We’re keen to know what you think of the strategy using the comments section below. We want everyone to be involved locally in improving people’s quality of life where it’s affected by alcohol or other drugs.
Dr Will Haydock is a senior health programme advisor at Public Health Dorset.