Fentanyl and drug related deaths – the local perspective
CGL recently hosted a Teesside Fentanyl Round table event in Stockton, which brought together healthcare and criminal justice partners to discuss the recent spate of overdoses that had been attributed to the opiate drug, fentanyl. If fentanyl is mixed with heroin, the effects of the drug may be up to 100 times stronger, which can have a devastating impact on the user. The outbreak in the North East led to a number of deaths in the area in a short space of time and learning from the incident had previously been used to inform CGL’s Fentanyl report and action plan.
The aim of the event was to build on the good work that contributed to the containment of the initial outbreak and to discuss how best to respond from both a prevention approach and a coordinated rapid response should there be a future outbreak. The event was facilitated by CGL’s North East director, Shirley Riley, and included presentations from CGL’s medical director, Dr Prun Bijral, and Teesside Council’s Preventing Drug Related Deaths Co-ordinator, Tom Le Ruez. A short film also featured service users who had been directly affected by the outbreak.
The event acknowledged the success of the Teesside partners and their continued efforts to monitor for the emergence of fentanyls in the local drug community. The subsequent group discussions led to a number of recommendations on how these partnerships could be strengthened further.
In particular the partners acknowledged a number of ‘next steps’ that would ensure that all parties would be able to respond rapidly with an effective, collaborative approach. These were as follows:
- To build on the lessons already learned;
- To formalise and establish leadership;
- To prepare communications in advance;
- To continue the sharing of information; and
- To create opportunities for training.
CGL is currently undertaking research into the prevalence of fentanyl in the UK and we have issued harm reduction advice for service users in collaboration with Release. Two additional roundtable events are also planned in Salisbury and Exeter which we hope will further inform our work to prevent future fentanyl-related deaths.