Friday, 28 October 2016

Bringing the community with you as you tackle drugs problem

Published in the Llanelli Herald on 28th October 2016

Like many similar sized towns Llanelli has a drug problem.

Many people don't understand why or how other people become addicted to drugs. They may mistakenly think that those who use drugs lack moral fibre or willpower, and that they could stop their drug use simply by choosing to.

Drugs change the brain in ways that make quitting hard, even for those who want to. Research shows that drug use is also linked to a person’s environment and quality of life.

There’s no doubt in my mind that the wiping out of our industry in the 1980s, and the economic decay that has followed, has contributed to a sense of despair that some people are tempted to try escape from with the help of chemicals.

But drug addiction is a complex disease, and quitting usually takes more than good intentions or a strong will.

Fortunately, in Llanelli there are people trying to help.

I recently went to Chooselife drop-in centre in Copperworks Road to meet the team who work with people struggling with addiction.

The charity have had support from the Welsh Government and the Lottery to provide a welcoming and sympathetic place for those who need it. I met volunteers taking part in healthy eating cookery classes, and heard about the range of activities that are put on to divert them from being in an environment that aids their addiction.

The team there told me if the drop-in centre wasn’t there their clients would be roaming the streets. Not everyone who passes through their doors is able to be helped, but a number have been and are now living healthier and happier lives.

Soon after my visit I was approached by a group of residents to raise concerns about the way the drop in centre is run.

Some local residents don’t want a drop-in centre for drug users on their doorstep. Others accept that Llanelli needs to deal with our own drug problem and the facilities need to be centrally placed. But it is clear from my conversations with them that they are unhappy with the way the current centre is being run.

As the Wallich Centre in Llanelli has demonstrated, it is possible to provide facilities for people struggling with addiction in a way which commands the confidence of the community.

Quite clearly relationships have broken down between Chooselife and some local residents. We all need to show support for people within our own community who need help, and the service providers need to do their bit to command the support of the town.

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