Drugs users are often brushed under the carpet
RESTRICTIONS imposed by Covid negatively impacted many services across the board over the last 18 months, including those that help people using drugs.
Lockdowns and restrictions decreased the ability of groups to meet clients in person, and along with the usual issues affecting people using drugs, this has led to an increase of mental health issues, according to Lisa Collins, a project worker with Neart Le Cheile in Neilstown.
“It was very difficult, we had to move groups online, and it was hard to keep in touch. You are definitely seeing an increase of mental health issues, with people feeling isolated,” said Ms Collins.
Neart Le Cheile and advocacy group Service Users Developing Solidarity (SUDS), kept the support structures in place throughout Covid at the Neilstown Shopping Centre premises, despite the challenges it presented.
Ms Collins continued: “People who use drugs contact us, we do a risk assessment, we are still meeting people, and split our teams to manage this. We also provide advocacy over the phone.
“Other agencies have been very good, we still get referrals. Most of my lads have my mobile number, and anyone can get all the information they need from us on our social media sites.”
People who use drugs are often brushed under the carpet by the general public, but drug related deaths in Ireland continue to increase year on year.
The most recent data currently available from 2017, indicated a total of 786 people died from a drug related death with 376 of these a direct result of an overdose.
More than one person died from overdose each day in 2017 in Ireland – opioids the main culprit and cocaine implicated in just over one death per week.
This death rate is nearly double the suicide rate and higher than suicides and road traffic collisions put together.
International Overdose Awareness Day is on Tuesday, August 31, and the Neilstown service say this represents a vital opportunity to have open conversations about drug overdose deaths, and reduce the shame felt by those left grieving the loss of a loved one.
SUDS in partnership with Neart Le Cheile will launch a community wide campaign on August 31.
In remembrance of those who lost their lives through overdose, their family members, friends and the wider community are invited to a tree planting ceremony in Neilstown Church grounds on Overdose Awareness Day, at 5pm.
A tree will be planted with a plague laid in memory of all those who have lost their lives through overdose.
“Last year we lit up the building to mark the international day, but this year we wanted something special,” said Ms Collins.
“We approached Fr Hugh Kavanagh (Neilstown Parish). He was supportive and the tree will be planted in the grounds of St Peter Apostle Church. It will be somewhere you can go, something permanent.”