Drug and alcohol use in Bristol
In contrast to alcohol use, self-reported drug use across England and Wales in the past year has remained stable. This is also the case in Bristol, where there has been a continuing pattern of stability in the use of opiates and crack cocaine. However, the city continues to have the highest proportion of people in England using both heroin and crack cocaine, and a high proportion of people injecting.
The Bristol Drugs Project (BDP) reports that during 2017/18 there were 4,160 people in treatment with Bristol ROADS (Recovery Orientated Alcohol and Drugs Service), including:
742 people who inject drugs engaged only with BDP’s needle and syringe programme.
People use drugs and alcohol for many reasons. Where drug or alcohol use becomes chronic and problematic, it is often a response to other issues in a person’s life including:
Some people try to ‘self-medicate’ with drugs and/or alcohol in order to deal with symptoms of their poor mental health. Drug and alcohol use can also make mental health problems worse, and harder to treat. 70% of people who are in community substance misuse treatment services are likely to also have problematic mental health issues (see Public Health England).
Use of drugs and alcohol can have many adverse effects on physical health resulting in long-term conditions.These can, in turn, also have an impact on mental health.
Drug and alcohol problems can damage relationships between individuals, families and across a community. The subsequent isolation can lead to mental health problems and increased substance misuse.
A high proportion of people involved in the criminal justice system have a dual diagnosis of drug or alcohol dependence and adverse mental health issues.
Overall, alcohol and drug misuse can result in people being locked into patterns of dependence, isolation, poor physical and mental health, and offending behaviour. The consequences of this are deadly – a report by Public Health England found that in 2016, nationally there were 2383 deaths related to drug poisoning, and 24,000 people died from alcohol-related causes.
Drug related deaths in Bristol have significantly risen in recent years, primarily due to the rise in opioid overdose fatalities. In 2017/18 these are likely to reach an unwelcome all time high. Purity of heroin and crack cocaine in Bristol remains high and is likely to be a factor in the increase in drug related deaths.
Treating alcohol and substance misuse in isolation and not looking at all the issues going on in a person’s life means that interventions are unlikely to have a long-term impact. At Golden Key, we are working with clients and services to find better ways of providing support so that people with complex needs have better outcomes.