DDN looks back at a year that saw cuts continue to bite, deaths continue to rise, \u2018county lines\u2019 become headline news \u2013 and a G7 country legalise cannabis. Read it in DDN Magazine JANUARY A predictably downbeat start to 2018 as, after years of shrinking budgets, the latest State of the sector docu\u00adment warns that the field\u2019s ability to absorb cuts through efficiency savings and service redesign has been \u2018exhausted\u2019. The report uncovered \u2018worrying signs that potentially serious damage\u2019 has been done, says Adfam chief executive Vivienne Evans. Meanwhile, Release warns that levels of naloxone provision by local authorities are \u2018chronically inadequate\u2019 and PHE announces its review of the \u2018growing problem\u2019 of prescription drug dependency. On a more positive note, the NHS states that its hepatitis C strategy could see England become the first country to eliminate the virus. FEBRUARY Get Connected, DDN\u2019s eleventh annual service user conference, sees another vibrant day of debate and networking in Birmingham. In a measure of how far the event \u2013 and user involvement \u2013 has come, SUIT\u2019s Sonny Dhadley tells delegates that \u2018I can remember coming to a DDN conference for the first time about a decade ago, not long out of detox \u2013 I didn\u2019t understand that this world existed. But if you\u2019re championing something you believe in, you\u2019ll do anything to make it happen. There\u2019s so much energy and potential in every one of us.\u2019 MARCH MPs warn that \u2018significantly greater\u2019 numbers of people will need to be tested, diagnosed and treated if the NHS is to meet its hep C elimination target, and the National Crime Agency reveals that it is seeing a dramatic increase in modern slavery cases as a result of county lines activity, with referrals of minors up by two thirds between 2016 and 2017. APRIL The government announces that its serious violence strategy will include a \u00a33.6m county lines coordination centre, citing the drug trade as an \u2018important driver\u2019 of rising incidences of knife and gun crime. Meanwhile, in what is seen as a landmark move, the Royal College of Physicians (RCP) issues a statement backing drug decriminalisation. \u2018The RCP strongly supports the view that drug addiction must be considered a health issue first and foremost\u2019 it says, adding that it had been \u2018alarmed\u2019 by rising rates of drug-related deaths. MAY In what could help show the way forward in eliminating hep C, a report from the London Joint Working Group (LJWG) reveals that a four-month community testing pilot project in pharmacies with needle exchange facilities has seen 50 per cent of people testing positive. Significantly, almost 60 per cent of participants were also unaware that the virus could now be treated with oral tablets rather than interferon. Meanwhile, minimum pricing finally comes into force in Scotland after years of legal wrangles and last month\u2019s 12-step article by Alex Boyt, \u2018All or nothing\u2019, fills the DDN letters pages with reactions ranging from \u2018brilliant\u2019 to \u2018reading this has ruined my day\u2019. JUNE EMCDDA\u2019s annual European drug report identifies the UK as among the biggest consumers in a \u2018buoyant\u2019 cocaine market, with purity levels at their highest for a decade, while Kevin Flemen wonders in DDN if the recent growth in crack use indicates a move towards social acceptability. \u2018I\u2019m probably more anxious about crack this time around than I have ever been working in the field,\u2019 he writes. \u2018I hope I\u2019m wrong.\u2019 JULY In what is becoming a depressing annual event, Scotland again records its highest ever number of drug-related deaths. The \u2018sheer toll\u2019 of deaths represents a \u2018staggering weight carried by families and communities and the wider Scottish nation\u2019, says Scottish Drugs Forum CEO David Liddell. Drugs are also behind the \u2018huge increase\u2019 in violence across the prison estate over the last five years, says the annual report from the chief inspector of prisons. Meanwhile the government is urged to overhaul drinks marketing legislation as campaigners warn that social media is creating \u2018unprecedented alcohol marketing opportunities\u2019. AUGUST Following last month\u2019s Scottish statistics, ONS figures again show record drug deaths for England and Wales. A cautious note of optimism is struck by the fact that, while previous increases had been \u2018statistically significant\u2019, rates since 2015 are only increasing slightly and remain \u2018broadly stable\u2019. Fentanyl-related deaths continue to rise, however, and deaths related to cocaine have now increased for six years in a row. SEPTEMBER As a WHO report states that one in 20 global deaths are now caused by alcohol, PHE launches its \u2018Drink Free Days\u2019 campaign in collaboration with Drinkaware as a \u2018clear to follow, positive and achievable\u2019 way for middle-aged drinkers to reduce their health risk. Partnering with the industry-funded body, however, leads to concern from some in the treatment sector and the resignation of PHE\u2019s alcohol leadership board co-chair Sir Ian Gilmore. OCTOBER Canada becomes the second, and largest, country to legalise the recreational use of cannabis, with justice minister Jody Wilson-Raybould stating that this \u2018progressive public policy\u2019 would help keep cannabis \u2018out of the hands of youth and profits out of the pockets of criminals\u2019. NOVEMBER Scotland pledges a \u2018person-centred, health approach\u2019 in its new drug strategy, Rights, respect and recovery. Meanwhile, the impact of price increases associated with ongoing buprenorphine supply problems continues to be felt, compounded, as PHE\u2019s Pete Burkinshaw tells DDN, by \u2018the financial pressures local authorities and services are currently under. We will continue to do everything we possibly can.\u2019 DECEMBER As the year comes to close preparations are well underway to bring people together for DDN\u2019s 2019 conference, Keep on Moving. See you on 21 February!