The rate of deaths linked to new psychoactive substances could be ‘higher than heroin’ within two years, according to a report from the Centre for Social Justice (CSJ) think tank.
Hospital admissions related to new psychoactive substances (NPS) rose by 56 per cent between 2009 and 2012, says Ambitious for recovery, while 97 people were found dead with NPS in their system in 2012, up from just 12 over the same period. ‘Based on current trends NPS could be implicated in more deaths than heroin by 2016,’ it says.
The report calls for measures similar to those in place in Ireland to make it easier for police and courts to close ‘head shops’ selling NPS. It also wants to see a ‘treatment tax’ added to the cost of alcohol to fund ‘a new generation of treatment centres’ and states that Public Health England and local councils ‘risk giving up on many addicts’, with the treatment sector mainly concerned with ‘managing’ people and the government’s FRANK education programme ‘shamefully inadequate’.
‘Far too many’ people are prescribed opiate substitutes, says the CSJ – which was set up eight years ago by Iain Duncan Smith – ‘effectively replacing one addiction’ with another. ‘The most effective way to overcome addiction and eliminate its costs is to help people to stop taking drugs and become fully abstinent,’ states the report. ‘Yet as the CSJ has long argued, treatment services have continually failed to support abstinence-based recovery. Despite warm words in its 2010 drug strategy, this government has failed to create the recovery revolution that it promised.’
A ‘treatment tax’ levy of 1p per unit could raise more than £1bn for abstinence-based treatment over five years, says the organisation, with the government urged to ‘look at reducing welfare payments for claimants who continually refuse to address their addiction’ once the additional treatment centres are up and running. It also suggests piloting a ‘welfare card’ scheme, where a proportion of benefits would have to be spent on essentials such as food and clothes. ‘This would apply to alcohol or drug addicts with dependent children who refuse treatment and who have not been in work for a year,’ it says.
‘Addiction rips into families, makes communities less safe and entrenches poverty,’ said CSJ director Christian Guy. ‘For years full recovery has been the preserve of the wealthy – closed off to the poorest people and to those with problems who need to rely on a public system. We want to break this injustice wide open.’
Ambitious for recovery at www.centreforsocialjustice.org.uk