Major addictions treatment service calls for balanced approach to substance misuse treatment.

The Huntercombe Group, one of the UK’s leading independent healthcare organisations working with people with drug and alcohol related problems, has today responded to the findings of the RSA report on UK Drug Policy. The report raises concern about the direction of policy, in particular the emphasis placed on drug related crime.

Mick Davies, The Huntercombe Group Addictions Development Manager says; “The last 10 years of investment in the national drug strategy has undoubtedly resulted in improvements to the drug treatment system. By establishing a structure of targeting funding to support local action, the government has managed to achieve significant improvements both in the number of people entering drug treatment, and in the nature of treatment itself. However, a much greater emphasis now needs to be placed on those elements of the treatment system that help problem drug users move to a drug free lifestyle”

The RSA report highlights some fundamental conflicts in policy in relation to illicit drugs when viewed against that relating to legal substances including alcohol and tobacco. Many treatment agencies work with both problem drug users and problem drinkers, and are aware that inconsistencies in approach can undermine their work.

Mick Davies continues, “the relative legal status of alcohol, tobacco and heroin is more a reflection of social history than it is of any indices of harm. If these drugs were all invented today, their status within the Misuse of Drugs Act, and other UK legislation, would be very different. Whilst we would like to see greater rationality in policy, a complete correction of the imbalance would be near impossible to achieve as it would probably require a degree of decriminalisation of some illicit drugs, and considerably tighter legal control of alcohol and tobacco. Neither of these options would be politically achievable in the context of current media driven public opinion.”

Although the national drug strategy has achieved many of its’ objectives, it has had unplanned negative consequences for other areas of addictions treatment. In particular, the range and quality of alcohol treatment in the UK has been hit. This has been partly due to the absence of targeted funding, but also due to reconfiguration of services to meet the government targets around younger class A drug users.

Mick Davies continued “The greatest failure in substance use policy in the UK today is the virtual absence of any strategic framework for alcohol treatment services. The recently published Alcohol Harm Reduction Strategy fails to address the needs of people with serious alcohol problems choosing, instead, to focus on prevention and brief interventions for people in the early stages of problem drinking. Whilst these are important, the lack of impetus to support specialist treatment is resulting in worrying growth in both morbidity and mortality. It is no longer good enough for central government to argue that the need for alcohol treatment provision is a decision for local health and social care authorities. If we are genuinely concerned about substance misuse in the UK, the government must take a lead in addressing it.”

ENDS

For further information contact Mick Davies on 07748652751

See details of The Huntercombe Group at www.huntercombe.com

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