Number of Islington opiate addicts seeking help doubles during lockdown

The operation aims to shut down dealers at the source Picture: GETTY IMAGES/ISTOCKPHOTO

There are estimated to be 2,168 crack or opiate users in the borough. - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

People seeking opiate drug help more than doubled while fewer dealers were on the streets during the lockdowns, Islington Town Hall figures have revealed.

In a trend noted by drug services throughout London, 212 new patients sought treatment in Islington in the first two quarters of 2020/21 compared to 95 in the first two quarters of 2020/21.

Islington Town Hall's Better Lives service senior commissioning manager Emma Stubbs said Covid-19 gave a “unique opportunity to draw people into treatment, particularly opiate users, who may have chosen to decline previous offers of support”.

However, according to statistics presented to Islington Council by Better Lives, the level of unmet need - the estimated number of people in the borough who are addicted to opiates, crack or alcohol and not being treated - remains high.

Out of an estimated 2,168 crack or opiate users in the borough, 60.2 per cent are not getting treatment.  This is slightly higher than the national average of 53.9pc.


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An estimated 3,674 people are dependent on alcohol, with an unmet need of 84.7pc - again higher than the national average of 82.6pc.

In the report, Islington’s director of public health Jonathan O’Sullivan said although its initial priority during lockdown was to ensure continuity of clinical care, by the end of September service users could access online services for mindfulness, sobriety and relapse prevention.

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He said: "The service has been working hard to re-instate as much face-to-face provision as possible, although these activities have to be carefully managed so that social distancing can be maintained in buildings, and consideration will be given to the newest lockdown measures before further face-to-face support is offered.”

According to Better Lives, in contrast to the numbers seeking support with opiate use, lockdown saw a “marked reduction” in the number of people presenting for support around alcohol.

However, these figures for Islington for the first two quarters are broadly equivalent to last year.

Ms Stubbs lists a number of challenges brought by Covid in the report, such as inpatient rehab sites closing or with severely restricted access.

The report adds: “In order to ensure that service users are safe over the Covid period, a decision was taken to delay any planned discharges from service. Alongside the increase in numbers of people presenting for opiate treatment in particular, this has meant an increase in individual caseloads.”

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