Your letters

We welcome your letters…

Please email them to or post them to The Editor, DDN Magazine, CJ Wellings Ltd, 57 High Street, Ashford TN24 8SG. Letters may be edited for space or clarity – please limit submissions to 350 words.


Parting words

After many years of service in the substance misuse field, I’ve decided to call it a day. In a mood of fond adieus, I felt it was time to write to DDN. It’s like saying goodbye to an old colleague. 

Though pertinent as ever, it’s a shame that your very valuable publication has utterly bowed to jargon. If I was a service user, I’d need to read a briefing on ‘recovery speak’ before tackling DDN. The personalities of the many contributors to DDN are sublimated in favour of bureaucratic linguistics, creating a gulf between ‘client’ and ‘professional’ – surely the very things we work to break down? 

Despite varying content, overall it’s like reading a TOPS form. The only feature with a heartbeat is Marie Tolman’s ‘Journey of self-discovery’ which is refreshingly free from ‘PbRs’ ‘localism’ and ‘core visions’.  

Of course Marie writes from the perspective of a service user rather a recovery professional. Perhaps it might be time to recover from ‘recovery speak’ in order to reach all members of the public? 

Nina Guidio, by email


Drink drive fiasco

It is of grave concern that the government are sleep-walking into a carbon copy of the West Coast Rail fiasco. To expand, the Driving Standards Agency (DSA) is trying to force through a raft of proposals that will dramatically change, and ultimately ruin, a highly successful road safety initiative. The Drink Drive Rehabilitation Scheme has been operating for over 15 years and independent monitoring has proven that this scheme achieves more than a 50 per cent reduction in the drink driving reoffending rate. The scheme offers alcohol awareness training to those offenders convicted of drink driving.

The proposed changes are poorly designed and constructed, displaying a lack of understanding about drink drive culture. The consultation process was seriously flawed and contained a series of inaccuracies and examples of poor practice. For example, out-of-date statistics were used when more recent data was available, the consultation timescale was curtailed and organisations were consulted that have no experience or knowledge about the relevant issues. 

Those who should have been consulted in detail, eg the magistrates operating the scheme in the courts, are largely unaware of what is being proposed. This is because the normal timeframe for consultation exercises was seriously curtailed, breaching the government’s own guidelines. It is our view that ministers have been misled; providers of this scheme were not consulted on any of the major changes proposed prior to the launch of the consultation document as stated by the minister.

It was planned to introduce these new proposals in January, but contrary to government guidelines, no independent review has been conducted of the results and responses to the consultation. One particular proposal was rejected with a ratio of 2:1 but has been carried forward despite this result, as the DSA persists with its own agenda and ignores warnings about the future problems their proposals will cause.

In his initial report into the West Coast line situation, Mr Sam Laidlaw criticised government officials for not following their own guidelines, not treating bidders equally and ignoring warnings of possible problems. These issues are now being repeated with the proposed changes to the Drink Drive Rehabilitation Scheme.

The DSA proposals will devastate the current scheme; they must be revisited before they tear apart a successful road safety initiative and the taxpayer is forced to burden the cost of another judicial review. These proposals are currently undergoing a legal challenge. Lawyers have been appointed by ADDAPT to prepare an application for judicial review using many of the same arguments cited in the West Coast franchise fiasco, only this time we are not talking about late trains, we are talking about an inevitable increase in deaths and serious injuries on our roads.

Steve James, secretary, ADDAPT (Association of Drink Drive Approved Providers of Training)


No conspiracy

 Dr Alcorn (DDN, December, page 16) has accused my co-authors, and the editorial team at DDN, of a flagrant piece of product placement for publishing the article ‘The road less travelled’ (November, page 16), in which we reported the results of our research comparing the impact of Suboxone (buprenorphine naloxone combination) and methadone. 

The DDN article was a cut-down version of a paper that was first published in the peer reviewed Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment. The article within DDN acknowledged the source of our funding, and while Dr Alcorn may conjure up a conspiratorial image of the need for vigilance in the face of Big Pharma, in fact Reckitt Benckiser, who funded our research, did not seek to influence the design, the data collection, the analysis or the reporting of our findings in any way – indeed they did not even ask to see a copy of our paper in advance of its submission for publication. 

Dr Alcorn disparaged our research on the basis that the study had small numbers, was uncontrolled, open label, not statistically relevant (not quite sure what this refers to), all of which, in his view, made the study meaningless. Sir Michael Rawlins, the chair of NICE, in his 2008 Harveian Oration, has pointed out that the idea that evidence can be ranked in some kind of hierarchy with randomised controlled trials at the top and case studies and expert opinion at the bottom is illusory, and that clinicians need access to information from all types of research in making their decisions. That is the reason why we submitted the article to DDN and it was certainly not to promote any narrow set of commercial interests.

Neil McKeganey PhD, director, Centre for Drug Misuse Research, Glasgow


Comedy turn?

It seems that Sacha Baron Cohen was testing out a new character on Newsnight recently, a member of the legalisation lobby called Eliot Albers. However, the creation was so ridiculously stereotypical and parodic that Jeremy Paxman, judging by his weary expression, wasn’t taken it at all, while poor John Strang just seemed slightly bewildered…

Molly Cochrane, by email