Party drugs, social media and the internet

Party drugs, social media and the internet

 How might social media be used by mental health and other NHS services to reach potential users and reduce barriers?  I do spend a reasonable amount of time in many a working day operating like a Twitter-seeking missile, ferreting out social media enthusiasts amongst my health and social care colleagues, wherever I go. When I fix my sights on an unfortunate victim I have a general tendency to pounce (apologies for metaphor mixing – it’s late…). This is what has happened to Dr John Roche. I have even managed to twist his arm (virtually of course) to write a guest post for me. My only disappointment is that he has failed to mention the legendary slogan ‘mugs not drugs’ (you’ll have to check out his website to find out more about that). Here is his post… 

‘Leeds Club Drug Clinic was started in December 2011 at Leeds Addiction Unit (part of Leeds and York Partnership NHS Foundation Trust) in response to increasing referrals for ‘party drugs’ such as ketamine, mephedrone and GHB/GBL. When we looked at the rferrals for these drugs we noticed that many were aged 18-25 and there was very poor engagement, with many not attending their first appointment or dropping out of treatment quickly. People told us that many found it very intimidating seeking help and these drugs were less well understood than alcohol and heroin. Although the substances might be different, there are many similarities in how we can help someone, but people need to be engaged with their treatment and feel that the service is meeting their needs.

‘Many people who use our service are working or studying, so evening appointments are important. We have tried to reduce other barriers to accessing treatment as well – clinics at a local GP surgery in Headingley and drop ins at Leeds University and Leeds Met Union. Confidentiality is a key point and we think many people might be reluctant to speak to a health professional. We also know that this age group has grown up with the internet and many use social media and smartphones on a daily basis.

‘ recently asked 1401 UK students where they would turn for help and advice about drugs – only 15% said their GP, 31% said FRANK, 43% said friends and a huge 67% said the internet.

‘We decided to develop a website with information about drugs for both potential users and concerned others, with descriptions about what the drugs are, why people use them, what the dangers are, how to recognise problems and what to do about them. There is a wide range of topics – from when to call an ambulance to recognising if your ketamine use is getting out of hand. We have used personal stories to let people know how these drugs have affected others. The website can be used by anyone and has details about how people can refer themselves for help.

‘Social media has been key in developing our online resources – a way of reaching people who might benefit from the serviceand to inform other health professionals. We have promoted the clinic by handing out mugs with our logo and website to students, GPs, other health professionals, student counsellors and also lucky mug winners – we want people to remember our clinic when they encounter a drug issue. Twitter has also been fantastic for keeping up to date with developments around the country and the globe. Through Twitter we have made connections with services in London, Bristol and Edinburgh who are doing similar work, as well as keeping up to date with developments in Australia, New Zealand and the rest of the world. The speed at which ideas can bounce around and be developed is breathtaking, and the development of online tools and smartphone apps to aid addiction problems is very exciting. This technology can bring easy to access help and real benefit to those who might never have got help through traditional pathways.

‘Please check out our website and connect with us on facebook and twitter (@leedsdropin) – we are constantly developing and welcome all comments and suggestions!’

Dr John Roche – Consultant Addiction Psychiatrist

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