Sidmouth drug and alcohol problem goes ‘under the radar’

Extra funding is needed to offer life-changing support to Sidmouth’s ‘hidden’ drug and alcohol addicts, according to a town doctor, writes Beth Sharp.

Dr Sara Hadfield, of the Sid Valley Practice, told the Herald: “There is a huge unmet need in East Devon due to low service provision.

“There are a lot of people who drink and take drugs in excess to the point it affects their health, relationship and financial situation.”

The doctor said recent figures showed the number of people being treated for substance abuse in the town was well below the national average. However, the figures hid the true picture and many addicts were ‘not on the radar’.

According to RISE – Devon’s drug and alcohol support service – between April 2014 and March 2015, 12 adults from Sidmouth accessed specialist drug treatment.

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This rose to 16 the next year, representing 0.1 per cent of the town’s population of around 15,000.

The amount of residents accessing help for alcohol abuse between 2014 and 2015 was 24, which rose by three the following year.

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But Dr Hadfield claimed large numbers of people suffering were not on the radar, while GPs at her practice regularly saw patients who did not access help due to the long waiting lists.

“When a patient decides to seek help, either through ourselves or by self-referring to the service, they need to be able to receive timely help and will become discouraged by having to wait,” she said.

Dr Hadfield said others did not tell their GP, but doctors had been informed about issues through family members, while others did not want help.

She added it was daunting for people to have to travel for treatment and added while there was some excellent help available there was not a lot because of funding.

A RISE spokeswoman said Sidmouth and East Devon residents would normally be offered appointments within three weeks, primarily in Honiton, unless there was a specific need to go elsewhere.

This allowed people to take part in group work and a range of recovery activities alongside others, building a network of people in recovery across the district.

She said: “Support networks can be vital to the success of someone’s recovery. Unfortunately, many people feel a stigma with getting help.”

For more information on RISE, call 01392 492360.

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