National news from the substance misuse field

A round-up of national news – September 2015

Black books

The government has reignited the debate over whether benefit entitlement should be linked to accepting treatment, with the publication of its review by Dame Carol Black. The review will look at the ‘legal, ethical and other implications’ of linking benefit entitlements to the take up of treatment, with a final report to be published later this year.

An independent review into the impact on employment outcomes of drug or alcohol addiction, and obesity at

Sudden impact

Government plans to reduce the public health grant to local authorities by £200m over the course of the financial year will ‘clearly impact’ on councils’ ability to improve the health of their communities, the Local Government Association (LGA) has stated. ‘Giving councils the ability to make a real impact to the health of local people was a positive step, but local government can only continue its important work such as reducing smoking or excessive drinking and tackling obesity if we are adequately resourced to do so,’ said chair of the LGA’s community wellbeing board, Izzi Seccombe.

Mixed picture

Last year, 38 per cent of 11 to 15-year-olds reported that they had tried alcohol at least once, according to figures from the Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC), the lowest proportion since the survey began. While this ‘downward drift’ was encouraging, however, those who were drinking were drinking more, stressed Alcohol Concern. ‘Looking at the broader picture it’s a case of more alcohol down fewer throats,’ said head of policy Tom Smith.

Choice publication

A booklet on new psychoactive substances and other drugs has been published by Turning Point, aimed at drug users, their families and professionals. The aim is to educate people to make their own choices, says the charity. ‘Substances that are taken in a predominantly recreational context, like novel psychoactive substances, cocaine, steroids and alcohol, place a heavy burden on the health system,’ said director of operations for substance misuse, Jay Stewart. ‘This new guide aims to provide useful information on the risks associated with substances such as these, to dispel some of the myths associated with certain drugs, and to outline the range of support available.’

A useful guide to psychoactive substances, steroids, cannabis and alcohol at

New regime

The Care Quality Commission has published a handbook setting out how it will inspect substance misuse services, following a wide-ranging consultation (DDN, February, page 4). ‘Our new regulatory model will put the experiences and views of users of specialist substance misuse services at the heart of how we judge these services, so people can be clear about the quality of services they are receiving,’ said CQC’s deputy chief inspector of hospitals Dr Paul Lelliott.

Download the handbook at

Prison problem

New psychoactive substances are a source of ‘increasing concern’ in prisons, according to a report from the prisons and probation ombudsman, with links to suicide, self-harm, violence, intimidation and debt. The document looks at 19 deaths in prison between April 2012 and September 2014, where the prisoner was ‘known, or strongly suspected, to have been using NPS-type drugs’. New psychoactive substances at

Crops circled

Coca bush cultivation in Bolivia fell by more than 10 per cent last year, according to a UNODC report, with the total area under cultivation down by more than a third since 2010 to the lowest level since monitoring began. The reduction is the result of government efforts to reduce the surplus of coca crops in areas where cultivation is permitted, says UNODC, and to eradicate crops in prohibited areas. Seizures of coca leaf were also up by 22 per cent on the previous year, while seizures of cocaine hydrochloride increased by more 150 per cent.

Coca crop monitoring survey at

Hep course

A new PHE-commissioned hepatitis C awareness course for people who work with drug users, but who don’t have a medical background, has been developed by RCGP. The free online course takes about two hours to complete.

Find it at

Giving voice

A new project that aims to ensure that the voices of service users are properly heard is to be headed by ex-NTA chief Paul Hayes. Collective Voice is a joint venture between major service providers including Addaction, Blenheim, CRI, Phoenix Futures and Turning Point. ‘Leadership of this project will require influencing skills, political astuteness and experience of building successful partnerships and links with key stakeholders at the highest level, and the board were clear that Paul Hayes was the outstanding applicant to provide this,’ said a project spokesperson.