DERRY JOURNAL Editorial: Addiction services must be an urgent priority

Ruth Bone’s account of the loss of her youngest son Dale to drug addiction early this year is truly heart-rending.

By Kevin Mullan
Tuesday, 21st September 2021, 4:59 pm
Updated Tuesday, 21st September 2021, 5:02 pm
Ruth Bone holding a memento of her late son Dale.
Ruth Bone holding a memento of her late son Dale.

Dale was just 30 when Ruth was asked by police to identify his body in May. He had been struck down, Ruth believes, by a deadly batch of ‘diazepam’ that was in circulation in the city at the time.

Ruth’s story will be sadly familiar to many people in this city and district where drug and alcohol addiction is a chronic and growing problem.

A recent report on addiction services by the Audit Office (NIAO) found that the number of people seeking treatment for drug misuse across the North as a whole increased from 2,107 in 2007 to over 4,100 in 2019.

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Over the same period drug misuse deaths in the North increased by more than 200 per cent. Alcohol misuse deaths have increased by more than 40 per cent since 2013, more than any other region on these islands.

The reasons people turn to drink and drugs are manifold. The inter-generational legacy of political violence is often validly cited as an ongoing source of mental health problems that can become manifest in addiction.

Undoubtedly, drug and alcohol abuse and addiction services will continue to be a pressing public policy concern in a city like Derry which tends to suffer poorer economic and health outcomes than more affluent parts of this island.

Addiction can be a disease of the poor but it is not always so. As Ruth, speaking out in today’s paper for the first time since Dale’s passing explains, addiction, once its insidious grip takes hold, can visit the door of any family regardless of creed, race, class or gender, with the most horrendous of consequences.

Dale’s story like those of so many others whose lives have been destroyed by this illness, underlines the urgent necessity of delivering on the ‘New Decade, New Approach’ commitment to provide additional funding for an addiction and detoxification centre in Derry. People like Dale need to be given the chance to recover and get well.