LettersThe DDN letters page, where you can have your say.

The August issue of DDN will be out on 2 September — make sure you send letters and comments to claire@cjwellings.com by Wednesday 28 August to be included.


 False dichotomy

In her open letter to Anna Soubry MP Dr Chris Ford draws an erroneous and largely unhelpful distinction between treating drug misuse as a health issue and treating it as a criminal justice issue.

In peer-reviewed research evaluating the impact of major drug enforcement operations on street-level drug markets it was found that the proportion of drug users contacting a methadone prescribing clinic increased massively from 30.2 per cent in the weeks in advance of the operations to 84.3 per cent in the weeks following the police operations (McGallagly and McKeganey 2012).

This research shows that drug enforcement operations can have a welcome positive impact on encouraging drug users into drug treatment. Instead of claiming that drug use is either a health or a criminal justice issue we need effective joint working between health and criminal justice agencies and a recognition that both domains have an equally important contribution to make in tackling drug misuse.

Ref: McGallagly, J., McKeganey, N. (2013) Does robust drug enforcement lead to an increase in drug users? Drugs: Education, Prevention, and Policy, 2013, Vol. 20, No. 1: Pages 1-4.

Neil McKeganey Ph.D, director, Centre for Drug Misuse Research, Glasgow


Self-help salvation

It is ridiculous for Ford and Soubry to be battling it out over whether addiction is a criminal or a health issue. It is the failure of the law and of medicine to understand and cure addiction that gives neither of them the right to even have an opinion.

Addiction is simply a current condition initiated by an individual making the mistake of choosing to use an addictive substance in an attempt to solve a ‘personal’ problem. It is straightforwardly a personal decision, made alone or in agreement with advice, which proves to be a mistake, and for which medical ‘treatment’ has never been an answer. Nor, as history shows, can criminal punishment resolve the country’s addiction problems.

When the coalition chose as the first strand of their 2010 drug strategy ‘reducing demand’, they knew what they were doing, because they were focusing on the source of our addiction problems – the individual addict. As they move towards ‘localism’ they are again focusing on the individual addicts that all inevitably exist in their local community.

It follows that reducing demand is achieved solely and only by curing individual addicts, and this is just not occurring other than sporadically as a result of medical treatment or criminal labelling or trying to restrict supply.

But it can be achieved by recognising that life is a do-it-for-yourself activity, that deciding to use drugs is also a do-it-for-yourself activity and that quitting addiction is most often achieved on a self-help basis.

Seventy to 75 per cent of addicts who have used for three days, three weeks, three months, three years or 30 years have tried, often daily, to quit and have failed – but still want to quit.

All they lack is the knowledge of how to attain lasting relaxed abstinence, and we know from the results of addiction recovery training delivered since 1966, and now at 169 centres (including prison units) in 49 countries, that 70-plus per cent can cure themselves.

So lets give addicts and the drug strategy a chance – by training drunks and addicts to cure themselves.

Kenneth Eckersley, CEO, Addiction Recovery Training Services (ARTS)


 35 years strong

Norwich charity NORCAS are celebrating 35 years of working in the region with a huge birthday party – all welcome!

Since 1978 when NORCAS opened its first alcohol service in Norwich they have gone on to provide drug, gambling and welfare rights services for many thousands of people across East Anglia. Now working in partnership with national substance misuse charity Phoenix Futures under the name Phoenix + NORCAS, the party will be an opportunity to hear inspirational stories of recovery, meet staff, volunteers and service users, past and present and to learn more about the plans for the future.

The party to be held on 22 August at OPEN, 20 Bank Plain, Norwich NR2 4SF, between 10.30am and 3.00pm, is open to all who want to drop in. Lunch and (of course birthday cake!) will be provided.

As Paul Hammond, Phoenix and NORCAS service manager says, ‘Over the last year alone NORCAS has worked with 8,342 adult and youth clients across Norfolk and Suffolk, and positively impacted the lives of many more through educational events. We want to thank the local community for the support they’ve provided us to help so many local people make positive changes in their lives.’

For more information go to www.phoenix-futures.org.uk/phoenix-norcas or contact me on bob.campbell@phoenix-futures.org.uk

Bob Campbell, special projects officer, Phoenix Futures


Help the aged

I have been trying to raise the profile of alcohol misuse in older people for some years, particularly as my own clinical service covers a population that has a rate of alcohol-related deaths in the 75-plus age group that is more than twice the national average.

Older people with alcohol problems remain caught between services. Luckily for me, I managed to gain additional skills in substance misuse and integrate these into a mainstream mental health of older adults service.

I would be interested to know whether practitioners see this as a growing clinical and public health problem and what is being done to tackle this problem in their local area or region.

Dr Tony Rao, consultant old age psychiatrist and chair of Royal College of Psychiatrists Substance Misuse Working Group


How lucky we are

Reading the coverage of the International Harm Reduction Conference really brought it home how lucky we are in the UK.

Sadly I was unable to attend in person but by reading the DDN Daily updates and the special issue I was able to get a real sense of the genuinely life-threatening situations that users in many countries face. It once again reinforced the indisputable fact that harm reduction saves lives.

To have the luxury of debating the individual nature of recovery and patient choice is something that many of the speakers at the conference must dream about, and we would do well to remember that. While the stories of the ongoing battle to have their drug use recognised as a health issue, and the ongoing human rights abuses were as harrowing as ever, there did seem some cause for cautious optimism.

The, albeit slowly, changing political acceptance that harm reduction works, the increasing high-profile support and, most importantly, the untiring work of the activists working across the world do give you hope that things will get better. I would like to thank both Harm Reduction International for having the courage to hold this unique event, and DDN for providing coverage to everyone unable to attend.

J Spence, by email


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