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Tackling Substance Use Programme: Focus on Support

On Tuesday 7th May 2024 the second session in the community co-designed Tackling Substance Use Education Programme took place in the Market.

The session focused on raising awareness of existing support services for substance use in Northern Ireland, the nature of these services, and how to access them. The session was co-facilitated by Professor Kathryn Higgins (QCAP Director) alongside two residents from the Market community, Rachel Stitt and Tony Dorrian.

Professor Anne Campbell (QUB) kicked off session two by providing an overview of the structure of support services in Northern Ireland, and existing drug and alcohol support services for adults, young people/family and other groups. For further information see: Belfast DACT | Drugs and Alcohol (

We were delighted to welcome guest speakers to the session. Firstly, Michael McDowell, from Belfast Experts by Experience (BEBE), shared his powerful, first-hand experience of addiction. His experiences, insight and honesty highlighted the importance of discussion, engagement, addressing stigma and providing support for individuals and families impacted by substance use.

Michael reflected on his involvement in the Tackling Substance Use Programme later on X (

Just finished talking with a community group in the Market. Really impressed with everything they are trying to do. Understanding the issues rather than reacting to them #anypositivechange #stigmakills #stopcallingmejunkie.

Our second speaker was Alison Esler, Dual Diagnosis co-ordinator at the Northern Health and Social Care Trust (NHSCT). Alison shared her expertise on ‘dual diagnosis’, the difficulties that exist for people living with co-existing mental health and substance use issues, and the availability of related support services.

The session saw lively discussion throughout among our co-facilitators, presenters, guest speakers and attendees. The evening allowed for open and frank discussions around substance use supports and services.