United front needed to continue Detox centre campaign

There should be a united front in the fight to get a much needed detox centre for Derry and the campaign should have one main spokesperson, a local film maker and campaigner has said.

Gavin Patton who made headlines with his often shocking documentary ‘Derry Detoxed’, will be one of the speakers at a public meeting at the Derry City Club in Crawford Square this Thursday night to discuss the need for a detox centre.

‘Derry Detoxed’ filmed the extent of the drugs and alcohol problem in the city and challenged the powers that be over the lack of facilities on offer.

“This meeting is the chance for a fresh start, it’s an opportunity for us to re-group and to fight on,” said Gavin Patton.

“I can understand there is a lot of pain and suffering out there with people who have lost loved ones to drug and alcohol abuse but we have to come together now to make sure that the fight for a detox centre continues. We should have one figurehead who can take the campaign forward. We don’t yet know who that will be. We have to see what the feeling is at the meeting.”

Mr Patton also wanted it made clear what the detox centre would actually be used for in terms of treatment and intervention.

“This would not be a centre for counselling. It would be to take the drugs and alcohol out of a person’s system so that they could go on to receive counselling treatment elsewhere,” he said.

“It’s for people whose bodies and minds are twisted with drugs and alcohol and are on the verge of breaking down and heading for the bridge.

“I’m a recovering alcoholic myself and remember having to cross that bridge when I went to get Librium from the doctor. I had those same thoughts about going off the bridge.

“These are people who feel that they have nowhere else to go because their bodies are so wrecked with chemicals.

“The centre would have medically trained staff to take the drugs and alcohol out and they would be directed from there.”

Mr Patton also said that some images from his documentary film would stay with him forever, including that of a young girl whose veins had exploded from drug abuse,

“She was injecting class A drugs but the mixture was wrong and it ended up actually exploding in her veins,” he said.

“It wasn’t scars that were left on her arms, it was literally craters.

“I also met a young man who was eating Fentynal patches. Fentynal is a very strong opiate and you are supposed to wear the patch on your arm. Someone told him that the hit would be quicker if he put the patch into his mouth.

“The really worrying thing was that he bought one of these patches from a mobile van parked on an estate.

“He needed to get it into his system quickly because he was in withdrawal from the drugs that he had taken the night before.

“This is happening right in Derry and we can’t pretend that it isn’t. I know that it sounds like it’s something that is happening in a bigger city but this is our problem right here and now.”

Other speakers at Thursday’s meeting will include Dr Anne McCloskey and veteran civil rights campaigner Fionbarra O’Dochartaigh.

To date more than 70,000 people have endorsed the need for a detox centre in the city via an online campaign.

The meeting is open to the public and will start at 7.30pm in the downstairs function room.