Charity calls for more support for people with drug and alcohol issues

PUBLISHED: 12:00 13 December 2017

North Somerset Addaction volunteer, Les Chandler, with Weston MP John Penrose.

North Somerset Addaction volunteer, Les Chandler, with Weston MP John Penrose.

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A former drug user from Weston whose addiction led him to prison, psychiatric units and three suicide attempts is supporting Addaction’s call for more support for people with mental health and drug and alcohol issues.

Addaction has called on the Government to challenge the stigma faced by people who struggle with drink and drugs and mental health conditions.

The charity spoke to MPs, commissioners and civil servants at an event in the House of Lords.

Les Chandler, who was a heroin addict before getting treatment, is now a volunteer with Addaction. The 61-year-old told the ministers about the stigma he has faced.

He said: “Drugs took me to prison, to psychiatric units and to three suicide attempts. The stigma and shame meant I wasted years not getting the help I needed. I was called a junkie, a thief, a waste of space – and I believed it. I wanted to die.

“Addaction gave me a purpose in life. They’ve given me confidence. I’m now training to be a counsellor.”

Addaction proposed three recommendations to tackle the problem. The charity is calling for more joint commissioning and assessments between mental health and substance misuse services.

It wants employers to treat drug and alcohol misuse as a health issue rather than a disciplinary matter. The charity wants businesses to consider appropriate help for the employee and to treat absence for treatment and rehabilitation as normal sick leave.

Addaction also wants strategies which recognise people may need different support, depending on their age.

Addaction’s chief executive, Mike Dixon, said: “The stories that lead people to our door are many and varied. Those who come forward for support have had to overcome their own personal, mental and physical barriers. The added fear of being stigmatised and shamed based on previous experiences raises those barriers even higher.

“We want to confront stigma head-on and this means educating the public to increase empathy and understanding for those tackling drugs, alcohol and mental health issues.

“By challenging stigma, we believe more people will come forward for support and more people will recover and reach their potential.”

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