4th June issue

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It’s easy to think that the diamorphine crisis has gone away. Stocks have been building with the introduction of new suppliers, and there is optimism that supervised injecting trials could yield positive results.

But talking to Plymouth User Forum (PUF) gives an insight to how the disruption to regular scripts threw stable lives into turmoil (page 6). From just talking to them it’s difficult to grasp what the impact on them must have been. But that’s the point. With diamorphine scripts restored, they just get on with life. No trips to the chemist several times a day to take methadone – their life no longer revolves around their dependency.

Carrying out a survey among local service users who had been affected was not an easy job, say PUF. Many would-be participants did not want to risk upsetting the services that could control their care, despite assurances of anonymity. Of those who did complete their questionnaire, it would be easy to ignore the number – 12 service users – as too small to make an impact on local consciousness. But take a closer look at those results: apart from the fact that 11 out of 12 had suffered side-effects to their health, most had topped up their methadone with illicit drugs, 11 had increased contact with dealers; many had become involved in other crime. Families were falling apart, and there had been a violent death following destabilisation. And all of this when their prescribers thought they were doing OK on methadone?

The members of PUF had to cross geographical boundaries to find a sympathetic consultant, and they had the good luck of having a ‘fantastically supportive’ DAAT. They were also willing to shout about what was happening to them, and insist on better treatment. What happens if you’re the person in the survey who said ‘methadone makes me too drowsy for normal living?’

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