“Working to tackle stigma”: Lewisham addiction recovery day focuses on harm reduction

Brian from the Naloxone peer-to-peer training group, Lewisham Wanderers, demonstrating how to use Naloxone. Pic: Miri de Villers

Drug and alcohol addiction charities in Lewisham advocated for the use of overdose reversal drug Naloxone at a recovery day event hosted at Civic House in Catford last Wednesday.

Change Grow Live and Humankind, along with Lewisham Council, facilitated the day to bring awareness around recovery services and harm reduction in the borough.

Jason Curmi and Aoife Ward from Change Grow Live Lewisham at the Lewisham open recovery day. Pic: Miri de Villers

The day started with a talk by Dr Catherine Mbema, director of public health and Sevilay Surendran, one of Lewisham Council’s commissioners for substance misuse.

“A day like today we haven’t been able to do for the past few years over the pandemic. It’s good to get the services together, raise awareness and support partnership working,” Mbema told ELL.

“There is still a lot of stigma around admitting that you may have an issue with addiction and to seek help from the support services that we have on offer. I think working more around tackling that stigma and helping people understand the complex causes of addiction is where a lot of our work should focus on.”

A number of local services that promote recovery in Lewisham took part. Attending alongside Change Grow Live, Lewisham’s complex needs service in the borough, were Metro Lewisham, DWP, DrinkCoach, Insight, Humankind, Building People, Changing Minds, Quo Vadis, Phoenix Futures, 999 Club, The Bridge Café and Kairos community Centre.

The main was the Naloxone peer-to-peer training and talk organised by Change Grow Live.

Watch more about the event here:

Naloxone is an intravenous medication that rapidly counteracts the effects of opioids, such as heroin.

Almost half of all drug-related deaths are caused by opioids – every day, 17 people overdose in the UK.

Nationally celebrated harm reductionist and trainer George Charlton was invited to Lewisham for the event to deliver a speech about the need for Naloxone peer-to-peer training and supply.

George Charlton at Lewisham Civic Hall. Pic: Miri de Villers

“I wouldn’t be around if it wasn’t for Naloxone. Somebody took the time to know how to use Naloxone and identify when I was having an opioid overdose and going to die. I’m very lucky to be alive now,” said Charlton.

Peer-to-peer training includes training those who use drugs and those who work in alcohol and drug recovery services.

The Lewisham Wanderers, a small team of trainers at the event, delivered one-to-one training to attendees throughout the day.

Around 60 participants went home with a kit on Wednesday.

Currently, addiction service providers Change Grow Live and Humankind are not required to always carry Naloxone on them.

Aoife Ward, service manager of Change Grow Live, told ELL: “We should, and I would expect us all to, and we will make sure everyone does. If it can save a life, then why wouldn’t we? I think that’s the biggest message we need to get out there.” 

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