A charity is giving pharmacy undergraduates the chance to witness drug misuse services first-hand, as part of their degree, to help them better understand how the profession can support this patient group.
The four one-day practice placements have been set up by Addaction Lincolnshire and the pharmacy school at the University of Lincoln for final-year students on the four-year MPharm programme.
This is the first drugs misuse placement of its kind specifically for pharmacy students, according to Dimple Oza, the senior pharmacist at Addaction Lincolnshire who set up the scheme. It focuses on addiction to both prescribed and ‘illicit’ drugs.
She told The Pharmaceutical Journal: “In my undergraduate training I didn’t have very much exposure to a placement like this where you can get first-hand insight into substance misuse and mental health.
“I am really keen to inform pharmacists about substance misuse, to have that insight into what occurs to people in their treatment journey and that starts from when they are dispensed the medicines for the treatment of opiate substitution and alcohol withdrawal and management.”
These medicines include methadone, buprenorphine, naltrexone, nalmefene, disulfiram and acamprosate. So far, 17 undergraduates have taken part in the initiative, which launched in November 2017.
The first two days of the scheme involves shadowing Addaction staff and a day sitting in on an Addaction clinic run by a non-medical prescriber, such as a pharmacist or nurse, and a GP.
“They get to see a whole range of people — those who are established on an opiate substitute or addiction treatment, people in the middle of treatment, and those who have relapsed or have come to the end of their treatment,” explained Oza.
The third placement day is split between giving a presentation and another shadowing opportunity.
The final day involves making a presentation before a panel of judges, with the chance to win one of three prizes.
Oza said she hoped other Addaction branches would follow her lead.
“There is already a placement scheme for nurses but nothing like this for pharmacy,” she said.
“The feedback we’ve had has been very positive in terms of the students’ knowledge about substance misuse.”