Your letters

LettersThe DDN letters page, where you can have your say.

The December issue of DDN will be out on 2 December — make sure you send letters and comments to by Wednesday 20 November to be included.


Misplaced faith

In your October issue (page 21) Neil McKeganey stated his case for keeping a dual focus on health and criminal justice as equally important elements in tackling drug problems. Although he outlined his argument with clarity, several comments made me pause for thought.

It seems to me that it’s possible that countries with liberal drug policies and lower numbers in contact with formal treatment organisations may be a good thing. Perhaps they have fewer problems that require a massive bureaucratic system to ‘sort out’ for them and instead rely on the same support that the rest of the population use (ie their own GP and other community services) and peer support, that won’t be captured in official numbers, for their needs.

With reference to the availability of heroin versus alcohol, he stated, ‘In contrast, heroin is much less available and the recovering addict has to work less hard to avoid being exposed to the drug.’ Heroin is cheap, available 24/7, can be delivered to your door and payment made at a later date. Your ‘friendly’ dealer will also ring you up (whether you want them to or not) to let you know a new batch of heroin is in town. In addition many people struggle to move away from areas high in drug use, and social circles where class A drug use is normalised, due to a lack of money and debts racked up from drug use. This hardly seems like an easy scenario in which to avoid drugs.

Drug laws that permanently and harshly impact on people’s lives and futures have no place in a society that espouses ideals of fairness. Police, prison and probation aren’t good settings for the delivery of health services. Just look at the news and you can see examples of poor performing, overcrowded, drug filled prisons and police using inappropriate and sometimes lethal methods to deal with issues they don’t understand. Police, prison and coerced treatment isn’t the same as holistic, service user centred treatment and support.

Drugs are cheaper and more available than ever. I’m not sure where the faith in the criminal justice system to reduce the availability and accessibility comes from…

Malcolm Clayton, by email


Kicking the habit

I made a film on how to get off heroin for ITV in 1985, called Kicking the Habit. ITV have now asked me to do a follow-up to see what happened to the people in the film. Some were in Phoenix House’s Featherstone Lodge in Forest Hill, some in Roma, which was a therapeutic community, some in Chester. There have been follow-ups over 30 years so I hope to trace as many staff and ex-clients and their families as possible.

One person I want to trace especially is Dee Halpen, the social worker who ran Roma. Please get in touch if you can help – my email is

All information and contacts will be treated in total confidence. (Since few, if any, TV companies are called Psychology News, I should explain that was a small magazine I once ran – and the name has stuck.)

Many thanks.

David Cohen, Psychology News


Stigma stories

Unlock is an independent award-winning charity providing information and advice services for people with criminal convictions to help others overcome the long-term problems that having a conviction can bring (

As part of this, Unlock supports a volunteer-run online magazine for people who are no longer offending but are having to deal with all the problems that come with having a criminal record. We are always on the lookout for stories of how people have overcome the discrimination and stigma that having a criminal record brings or illustrate the barriers that are put in the way of people trying to turn their lives around. So, if you have a good story, either positive or negative, we’d love to hear from you. Just email us at the address below.

Richard, co-editor,



Knowledge gap

Martin Blakebrough is right to say ‘inserting the word “recovery” into a drug strategy does not in itself change very much at all’ (DDN, October, page 10), but he fails to add: ‘unless there is a viable procedure available to deliver a lasting return to the natural state of relaxed abstinence into which 99 per cent of the population is born.’

As soon as an addict recovers that state, the other factors in the Coalition’s brilliant 2010 drug strategy start to become available, not only to the recovered individual but also to his whole community.

But without that initial lasting relaxed abandonment of addictive substance usage, we do not get reduced demand or any of the other 2010 strategy objectives.

Martin is also right to say: ‘bullying people into recovery through the threats of the criminal justice system or reduction of benefits’ is not the key, but the ‘evidence-based approach’ he and Caroline Lucas advocate is apparently nothing more than ‘a reduction of drug-related harms’ – not a reduction in drug usage and not a reduction in the number of addicted drug users, both voluntary and involuntary.

In my 38 years of experience of training addicts to cure themselves of addiction, I have learned that 70+ per cent of individuals who have been addicted for seven days, seven weeks, seven months or seven years have all tried, often daily, to quit their habit but, having failed, still want to quit.

So, willingness is not their problem, it is lack of knowledge of what to do to quit. Which means training them in addiction recovery techniques which they apply to themselves.

These techniques are currently delivered in 169 centres in 49 countries and over each of the last 47 years they have delivered thousands of addicts to lasting relaxed abstinence – a result capable of satisfying the ‘PbR’ criteria which the 2010 drug strategy logically demands, ie ‘results based’ – not just ‘evidence based’.

We don’t need royal commissions or anything new to defeat the ‘vested self-interest in perpetuating the failing status quo’. We just need to substitute effective inexpensive ‘training’ for failed costly ‘treatments’.

Kenneth Eckersley, CEO Addiction Recovery Training Services (ARTS)

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