teeside

Teesside Harm Reduction Scheme

Once compared to Detroit, The North East of England is a struggling region, which has endured great hardships since the closures of the large industrial employers. Although gifted with some of the most beautiful landscapes in UK, the North East has become of our most deprived regions, which is suffering with some of the highest levels of drug addiction nationally. According to the office for National statistics, there were 3756 drug related deaths in England and Wales in 2017 – 53% were from opiate use, with the North East exhibiting the highest rate of deaths nationally (Office for National Statistics, 2018).

Hidden among these drug using communities are scores of vulnerable people who have often experienced truly horrific upbringings and experienced adverse childhood experiences (ACE)’s. Humans who have experienced four or more childhood exposures compared to those with no exposure are four to twelve times more likely to suffer from alcoholism, drug abuse, depression, or from a suicide attempt (Felitti et al., 2019)

Of the many vulnerable drug users, Cannabis users have garnered unprecedented support and media attention, with the consensus being that we as a population support people’s right to utilise cannabis medicines. Whilst the legislative structure and process is still being mulled over, members of the public who use cannabis, many of whom are often disabled or chronically ill, are being caught up in the penal system. Unfortunately, the black and white nature of the misuse of drugs legislature has been unable to factor complexities of cannabis and has ultimately further marginalised some of the already most vulnerable members of society

Having experienced these injustices first-hand, Michael Fisher, from the enduring and revolutionary region of Teesside, established a community of cannabis users who now work with the police to provide a safe consumption space for patients and recreational users alike. For many of the patients, some of their closest friends also use cannabis recreationally and the club provides a location from which patients can establish a support network during the more challenging periods of their lives. The consumption room supports the community in a number of ways and uniquely complements the novel harm reduction policing strategies adopted by Constabularies across the North East.

This harm reduction policy accepts that drug use cannot be eliminated altogether, and instead adopts an approach that reduces the health and social impact of these substances to better serve and protect the community. Despite some initial pushback from local authorities, Michael’s public desire to protect the community was ultimately acknowledged by Durham PCC Ronn Hogg, who openly supported these harm reduction efforts. This symbolic gesture shone a light on the wider discussion of harm reduction and drug policy reform making the North East one of the first regions to pioneer this approach.

By utilising communally grown cannabis, the facility is able to supply fair-trade cannabis at sub-black-market prices which has reduced the community’s dependence on cannabis produced by organised criminal groups. The cultivation system and implementation of a fair-trade cooperative has contributed towards neutralising the criminal black market, which has been achieved by removing the need for members to source their cannabis from third parties. Community cultivation has enabled members to self-regulate and quality assure their own produce, whilst also protecting them from the potential risks of home-cultivation.

One of the key challenges for charities within these deprived communities is engaging with their target demographics. The sizeable community that has developed around the consumption rooms has provided a tremendous medium for charitable groups to connect with vulnerable members who benefit from the community spirit and support that is generated. The Teesside club is collaborating with local charities and social services to be able to connect the vulnerable members of the community with their services. Working beyond this, Michael has been keen to explore other ways that the community can tackle the wider drug problems facing the North East. This has extended to collaborations with addiction specialists and a peer to peer naloxone distribution program, which is being implemented to reduce the number of heroin users dying in the region. This program teaches heroin users how to administer a drug called “Naloxone” which can effectively reverse an overdose enabling heroin users to save the lives of their peers.

Teesside Cannabis Club has developed from park meet ups to a fully functioning consumption room for Cannabis and is now the nation’s leader in promoting harm reduction strategies. The club has been committed to ensuring that the public has access to digestible educational literature to inform them of the harms associated with improper and uninformed cannabis consumption.

The consumption room in Teesside is a case study that demonstrates how models of this kind can be successfully implemented in a collaborative manner that both serves and protects the community. Global Cannabinoid Solutions has had the tremendous pleasure of supporting Michael Fisher and his team in their efforts, which has ultimately protected and reshaped the lives of many cannabis users in the North East. We would very much like to hear from anyone seeking to contribute towards the tremendous work of these drug programs.

For more those seeking to collaborate with these community initiatives please email Christopher Tasker at [email protected]. For more information on the community, you can interact directly with Teesside Cannabis Club through their social media pages or explore their website.

Teesside Cannabis Club Website

http://www.teessidecannabisclub.co.uk/

Peer to Peer Naloxone

References

Felitti, V. J. et al. (2019) ‘Relationship of Childhood Abuse and Household Dysfunction to Many of the Leading Causes of Death in Adults: The Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) Study’, American Journal of Preventive Medicine. Elsevier, 56(6), pp. 774–786. doi: 10.1016/J.AMEPRE.2019.04.001.

Office for National Statistics (2018) Deaths related to drug poisoning in England and Wales – Office for National Statistics. Available at: https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplep… (Accessed: 26 July 2019).

Further investigation and research into cannabis use (both recreational and medical) is thoroughly encouraged by The Academy, particularly through the use of our own online coursesevidence base and whitepapers.

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