Media savvy

The news and views from the national media

Substance misuse policy is, of course, a subject of passionate debate at all points on the political spectrum. While policy will always remain a highly charged issue, it is facts that should guide the commissioning of substance misuse, not politicised opinion or ill-informed conjecture.

Victor Adebowale, Guardian, 2 April

If being evidence based is not your thing and the use of medically prescribed heroin is still too radical for you, it is incumbent on you to provide an alternative. Is it another attempt at methadone or an abstinence programme based on a fervent hope and prayer that this time it will work? Given their histories of unsuccessful treatment, the evidence is overwhelming that many people will relapse quickly to using illicit heroin.

Martin T Schechter, BMJ, 14 April

I see addiction as driven by supply. Almost half the US soldiers serving in the later stages of the Vietnam war tried heroin or opium; about 20 per cent became addicted. Back home in America, most of those addicts kicked the habit because they couldn’t buy grade-A heroin from their housemaids, as they could as GIs. As a young man I was an alcoholic and the only way I could stop drinking was three years’ total immersion in Alcoholics Anonymous, to whom I owe a huge debt even though I don’t buy their disease model of addiction. Later I got into cocaine but didn’t become addicted to it – because the supply dried up. If it were legal I’d probably be a cokehead or dead by now.

Damian Thompson, Spectator, 9 April

If you are a man, it has virtually become gospel that drinking more than 21 units of alcohol a week is damaging to your health. But where did the evidence to support this well-known ‘fact’ come from?… According to Richard Smith, a former editor of the British Medical Journal, the level for safe drinking was ‘plucked out of the air’. He was on a Royal College of Physicians team that helped produce the guidelines in 1987. He told the Times newspaper that the committee’s epidemiologist had conceded that there was no data about safe limits available and that ‘it’s impossible to say what’s safe and what isn’t’. Smith said the drinking limits were ‘not based on any firm evidence at all’, but were an ‘intelligent guess’. In time, the intelligent guess becomes an undisputed fact.

Malcolm Kendrick, Independent, 6 April