Leeds needle scheme aims to help drug addicts

Joe Alderdice from Leeds Involving People, and Emma May, senior drugs worker.
Joe Alderdice from Leeds Involving People, and Emma May, senior drugs worker.
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A pilot scheme to guide drug addicts in Leeds towards support services for mental health issues will see 2,000 special needle packs distributed in the city in the coming weeks.

A panel of recovering drug and alcohol users, whose problems were linked to deep-rooted mental health issues, have been backed by organisations in Leeds to work on projects to help people recognise the concept of ‘dual diagnosis’.

The clean needle packs, which are being distributed at Boots, in Vicar Lane, and St Anne’s, in York Street, are hoped to make drug users begin to associate addictions with their mental health – two problems that are often inherently linked.

The Leeds Dual Diagnosis Network, which includes representatives from Leeds City Council, charities and NHS Leeds, is behind the two-week pilot that was thought up by recovering addicts within an expert reference group.

Joe Alderdice, who runs the expert group of former users on behalf of partner charity Leeds Involving People, describes them as “the link between the streets and the strategy”.

He told the YEP: “This is to get all the various services in Leeds that do work around drugs, alcohol and mental health to work in a more joined up way.”

The pilot needle packs, funded by St Anne’s Community Services, contain a flyer explaining the links between drugs and mental health problems, pointing addicts towards support.

If users respond and seek help the pilot could be rolled out city-wide.

One expert group member, who wished to remain anonymous, helped devise the pilot after drawing on her experiences of a seven-year heroin addiction.

She said: “It’s really nice that service users are being listened to because the service is for users – we know what works.”

The experts deliver dual diagnosis training and have produced posters for GP’s waiting rooms since joining up last year.

Visit: www.dual-diagnosis.org.uk for information.


Dual Diagnosis is the term used to describe people with mental health problems who also use drugs or alcohol.

It is thought that as many as two thirds of people who come into contact with drug or alcohol treatment services may also have some kind of mental health problem.

The term refers, for example, to someone who is depressed and drinking heavily or using heroin and suffering from anxiety.

Treating the mental health and drug and/or alcohol problem together within the same integrated service is recommended in national guidelines but this is all too often not the case.

The Leeds Dual Diagnosis Network aims to develop a strategy to improve access to treatment for people who experience mental ill health and use alcohol or drugs.

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