Thousands of people who misuse drugs or alcohol at the same time as experiencing mental health issues are being denied access to proper treatment, according to a new report.
The report, by social care organisation Turning Point, reveals that tens of thousands of people in the UK have a known 'dual diagnosis' where addiction overlaps with mental health conditions. But many more are struggling alone with this problem because health services have failed to diagnose them.
The needs of this ‘forgotten’ population are often ignored or overlooked according to Turning Point’s report, Dual Dilemma: The Impact of Living With Mental Health Issues Combined With Drug and Alcohol Misuse. The cost to society is estimated at millions of pounds a year.
Research by Public Health England in 2014 suggested that up to 70% of people in drug services and 86% of alcohol services users experienced mental health problems. In addition, 22% of 189 drug treatment services in England said that access to mental health services deteriorated over the 12 months to September 2014, according to research by Drugscope.
The findings highlight that the life chances of people who have addiction and mental health issues, such as depression, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia, are being severely undermined. The report states that NHS services are not set up to support multiple needs so people end up falling through gaps in care. There’s also an issue of individuals being excluded from services for being too chaotic or not being considered unwell enough to meet the criteria of any single service, so being left to address their needs alone. This puts strain not only on them but on their families and the wider community.
The report makes urgent recommendations for government including targeting funding at people with a dual diagnosis, training more GPs to specialise in this area and setting up an expert group across government to ensure their needs become a priority. Those who commission and provide healthcare within the NHS also need to provide relevant and easily accessible services that do not exclude those most in need.
Lord Victor Adebowale CBE (pictured), chief executive of Turning Point, said: “This forgotten population is being failed by the system because of the many barriers they face when seeking support. They have significant needs which aren’t being given enough priority.
“Many are struggling to cope and feel powerless to improve their everyday lives or their futures. So often people with overlapping mental health and substance misuse issues are labelled ‘hard to reach’ when it’s the services that are hard to access. Urgent action is needed so they get the support they need, when they need it.”