Meeting the need for party drug health services in London

Party drugs, club drugs and ‘legal highs’ are names given to a variety of substances that are becoming increasingly associated with ad-hoc, or recreational drug use in the UK. Media reports of the phenomenon some five years ago are today reflected in groups of people across the UK using drugs ‘socially’ at night clubs, festivals and other gatherings. In 2013, a number of London Trusts including the Camden and Islington NHS Foundation Trust (C&I) noticed an increase in the number of Londoners seeking support for party drug use.

Peter Kane, Divisional Director of Substance Misuse Services at C&I explains how The Grip clinic is providing an accessible source of help for people who use club drugs and legal highs in London.

The Grip clinic started life in March 2014 at the Margarete Centre in Camden. It provides an easily accessible source of help for people who use substances like club drugs or so-called legal highs. For quite some time the media had been highlighting the explosion in the use of these substances and in 2013, C&I began to notice an increase in the number of Londoners seeking support from our services.

There was clearly a need to develop a service that helped people to tackle their recreational drug use in an effective way. We made links with local A&E departments and GPs, as well as having a number of meetings with consultants at The Mortimer Market Centre (which provides sexual health services) in order to get a more detailed picture of the problem.

It became clear that there had been a noticeable increase in the uses of Mephedrone, Methamphetamine, GHB/GBL, and legal highs mixed with cocaine and alcohol in London. The majority of people who come forward for help are male (90%), of which a significant proportion (50%) are men who have sex with men. There’s also a trend towards injecting (‘slamming’), people attending ‘slamming parties’, levels of intoxication, as well as sharing of injecting equipment.

A small working group developed the plan to provide a specialist clinic for people using club/synthetic drugs. The name ‘Grip’ was given to the service in recognition of its aim of giving people a sense of regaining control of their drug use.

The Grip Service was set up to run daily at the Margarete Centre with satellites at all of our sites including a weekly advice and assessment clinic at the Mortimer Market Centre. A Wellbeing Clinic takes place on Monday evenings and offers Blood Bourne Virus (BBV) screening, psychiatric assessments and assessments for specialist detoxification from GBL. These detoxes can require highly specialised facilities with immediate access to intensive care services. This clinic is staffed by a doctor, a nurse and a specialist worker in new psychoactive drug from C&I drugs services. Relapse prevention is an important part of our work, as we work closely with the service user over many weeks. People are seen weekly, then fortnightly. After completion they have follow up phone calls to offer continued support.

Most people who attend the Grip Service self-refer, but GPs or other healthcare professionals can also recommend an appointment with the service. Those who attend can expect to receive confidential and knowledgeable information about the impact club drugs can have on their wellbeing as well as advice and support on how to prevent recreational drug use from escalating.

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