There wasn\u2019t very much to celebrate in 2015, a year that saw both England and Scotland record their highest ever number of drug-related fatalities, while a surprise outright Conservative election win heralded yet more belt-tightening and austerity... JANUARY Among ever-increasing fears about the impact of new psychoactive substances, the Ministry of Justice announces a raft of punitive measures for anyone found using or supplying them in prisons. \u2018If prisoners think they can get away with using these substances they need to think again,\u2019 warns justice secretary Chris Grayling. FEBRUARY DDN\u2019s eighth national service user conference, The Challenge, proves to be the liveliest yet, with a day of powerful presentations against a background of increasing anxiety in the field. DrugScope\u2019s State of the sector report indicates that the fears may be well founded, with more than half of survey respondents reporting a reduction in frontline staff alongside widespread concerns about job insecurity and rapid commissioning cycles. The highly controversial notion of linking treatment to benefit entitlement hits the headlines again as the prime minister commissions Prof Dame Carol Black to conduct a review into sickness benefits, while Alcohol Concern chief executive Jackie Ballard backs the call for health warnings on alcohol labels. \u2018Every other bottle of poison in the supermarket has a warning label on it,\u2019 she tells DDN. MARCH\u00a0 The government announces that it is developing plans for a general ban on the supply of all emerging drugs \u2013 the first stirrings of what is to become the controversial Psychoactive Substances Bill \u2013 and DrugScope goes into liquidation, blaming its worsening financial situation. \u2018It is with a heavy heart that the board has taken this extremely difficult decision\u2019, says chair Edwin Richards. APRIL Five more NPS become subject to temporary banning orders, and Alcohol Concern accuses the drinks industry of using responsible drinking messages as just another way to promote its brands. Meanwhile, Dr Joss Bray writes in DDN that it\u2019s time to put com\u00adpassion back into service provision. MAY There\u2019s widespread surprise \u2013 not least within the party itself \u2013 when the Conservatives win a majority in the general election. The new government loses no time in announcing its \u2018landmark\u2019 blanket ban on all NPS, described by Release as \u2018full blown regression\u2019. JUNE New substances are now being identified at a rate of two a week, the latest EMCDDA European drug report warns, although demand for heroin appears to be \u2018stagnating\u2019 across the continent. Delegates at the RCGP\u2019s national drug and alcohol conference argue that GPs need to stay central to substance treatment, while the \u2018Support. Don\u2019t Punish\u2019 campaign holds its third global day of action. Naloxone campaigner Philippe Bonnet, meanwhile, urges DDN readers to identify local champions, create networks and raise awareness of how cost-effective the intervention can be. JULY\/AUGUST Bleak news as Scotland records its highest ever number of drug-related deaths, 16 per cent up on the previous year. The country still faces a \u2018huge challenge in tackling the damaging effects of long-term drug use among an aging cohort\u2019, says community safety minister Paul Wheelhouse. Prof Dame Carol black launches her review into \u2018supporting benefit claimants with addictions and potentially treatable conditions back into work\u2019 and ASH tells DDN that the Welsh government\u2019s plans to ban the use of e-cigarettes in public places amounts to a misguided attack on an effective harm reduction tool, although the claim in a PHE report that the devices are 95 per cent less harmful than smoking tobacco proves divisive. SEPTEMBER More grim news as England follows Scotland to announce its highest drug death toll \u2013 although fatalities in Wales are down \u2013 prompting Addaction chief Simon Antrobus to call on the government to re-think proposed cuts to local authority health spending. \u2018The stakes are simply too high to do otherwise\u2019, he states. The European Court of Justice deals a blow to Scotland\u2019s minimum pricing plans by stating that they could breach EU trade laws, while Portuguese health minister Fernando Leal Da Costa tells the pan-European Lisbon addictions conference that Portugal\u2019s decriminalisation approach is a \u2018sensible and rational\u2019 one that other countries could follow. Recovery month sees a vibrant range of activities across the UK, and Dave Marteau\u2019s DDN piece on the risks of diverted methadone ruffles some feathers. OCTOBER Another month, another stark report \u2013 this time from the ACMD, whose second publication on opioid replacement therapy for the Inter-Ministerial Group on Drugs warns that heroin treatment is being threatened by diminishing resources and constant rounds of \u2018disruptive re-procurement\u2019. Another group of MPs, the Home Affairs Committee, concludes that the government is rushing, and weakening, its\u00a0psychoactive substances legislation, while Phoenix Futures cautions that people\u2019s recovery is under threat from a \u2018perfect storm\u2019 of conditions in the UK\u2019s over-heated rental market. NOVEMBER Chemsex hits the national headlines when a BMJ editorial calls it a \u2018public health priority\u2019 and a scathing report from the Institute of Alcohol Studies says the government\u2019s \u2018laughable\u2019 public health responsibility deal for alcohol may be \u2018worsening\u2019 the health of the nation. Stirling University\u2019s Rowdy Yates tells DDN that it\u2019s time to get over the \u2018residential bad, community good\u2019 attitude, while Ian Sherwood writes that the sector needs to be braver in calling for drug law reform. The government\u2019s spending review makes more cuts to cash-strapped local authorities, sending further shivers through a drug treatment sector expecting the worst and increasing demand for a meaningful drug strategy in the new year. DECEMBER Plans are already well under way for the ninth national service user involvement conference, Get the picture. See you there!