OPINION: Durkan: Tackling addiction requires compassion and collaboration

Watch more of our videos on Shots! 
and live on Freeview channel 276
Visit Shots! now
SDLP MLA and Chair of the All Party Group on Addiction and Dual Diagnosis, Mark H Durkan writing in the Journal today renews calls for a collaborative approach to tackling the complexities of addiction and growing numbers of drug-related deaths across the North.

Sadly, I see the impact of addiction coming through my office doors on a daily basis- the bereaved parents whose lives have been shattered, the individuals in the throes of addiction placed in emergency housing far from their support network and young people at rock bottom, feeling they’ve nowhere else to turn. The escalation both in severity and volume of cases has been heart-breaking to bear witness to.

At the moment, there are too many vulnerable people falling through the gaps of addiction support services. It’s no coincidence that drug-related deaths have trebled in a decade- it is a direct result of Tory austerity and failed leadership. The failures of government, exact the highest costs- the loss of life.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Those brave enough to seek support often find they’re forced from pillar to post, in efforts to find meaningful and appropriate services to address their ill mental health and addiction. From housing to health services, it’s become a case of pass the ‘problem’- failing to see the son, daughter, parent, brother, sister; struggling to keep afloat in a world that has become so unbearable. And that’s not to criticise staff from these organisations- they too are working in a challenging environment, unequipped to deal with the complexities people are presenting with.

Mark H Durkan, Foyle SDLP MLA. Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.Mark H Durkan, Foyle SDLP MLA. Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.
Mark H Durkan, Foyle SDLP MLA. Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.

I’m acutely aware that addiction is a complicated issue. There are a range of factors which lead people onto this path; once on it, individuals are pushed even further to the margins of society by a system stacked against them.

The increase risk of homelessness and situation around temporary accommodation really needs addressed. At present, very vulnerable people are being placed outside their home towns, away from family, friends or access to a local GPs.

This marked isolation leaves people at risk of abuse, neglect and exploitation from others including organised crime groups.

It’s crucial we tackle the siloed approach. Collaborative work involving government departments, the PSNI, the public and local organisations is the only way to achieve tangible results for people suffering. Local organisations like ARC Fitness, Northlands and HURT are shining examples of the compassionate approach needed to tackle this crisis head on.

It’s imperative that both the Executive and British government delivers on NDNA commitments to provide adequate addiction funding and services for the North West in order to prevent further loss of life.

Related topics:

Comment Guidelines

National World encourages reader discussion on our stories. User feedback, insights and back-and-forth exchanges add a rich layer of context to reporting. Please review our Community Guidelines before commenting.