Chief Medical Officer, Dr Michael McBride, officially opened Addiction NI’s 40th anniversary conference in Belfast today.
Delegates at the ‘Changing the Conversation on Addiction’ conference heard from leading experts about the latest developments in substance use and addiction as well as success stories and the opportunity to engage with others.
During his opening address, Dr McBride said: “I have seen the devastating impact that substance misuse has on individuals and families, communities and the economy and also on health and social care and the criminal justice sector.
“This is an increasingly complex area which overlaps with many other issues such as homelessness, mental health and community safety. Today’s conference is an opportunity to have conversations around all these issues. It is clear that if we do not continue to take action and bring forward innovative approaches the tragic harm caused by substance misuse, and the related costs, will continue to grow.
“Alcohol misuse costs up to £900 million every year, and almost £250 million of these costs are borne by the Health and Social Care Sector. If we include the costs from drug misuse, this figure would likely be well over £1 billion.
“This is a key priority for the Department of Health and our cross-departmental strategy for tackling this issue – the “New Strategic Direction for Alcohol and Drugs Phase 2” – remains in place. Approximately £8 million is allocated each year to its implementation and a further £8 million is available through the mental health budget for the provision of treatment services.”
Addiction NI is a key provider of services and support for some of the most vulnerable people in society. Organisations such as Addiction NI, the Probation Board for Northern Ireland and the Department of Justice play an important role in supporting the Department of Health to address the wider determinants of poor health and addiction.
Dr McBride continued: “Whilst the evidence shows that drug misuse among young people has fallen significantly, it is still an ongoing and dynamic problem. This is exacerbated by growing pressures on key services such as Substitute Prescribing, where plans are in place to deal with unacceptable waiting lists and significant progress has been made.”
Concluding, Dr McBride commended the work of all organisations, including Addiction NI, in supporting the efforts to address substance misuse. He said: “I appreciate the work carried out by all volunteers and organisations in the voluntary and community sector who work with those affected by substance misuse.
“It is a difficult but important job, and the people working in this field make a real difference to the lives of many individuals who misuse alcohol and drugs, and indeed to the wider community affected by substance misuse.”
Notes to editors:
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