Today the Centre for Social Justice published its latest report in the series Breakthrough Britain II. Called “No Quick Fix” it takes an in-depth look at Britain’s drug and alcohol problems. The report has, rightly, attracted much positive publicity. (I need to declare an interest. I made a small contribution to the research for the report, and BHT’s Addiction Services hosted a visit by Rupert Oldham-Reid, the author of and researcher for the report. I am also quoted briefly in the report).
The headlines from “No Quick Fix” include:
- the UK has Europe’s highest rate of addiction to opiates like heroin, and the highest lifetime-use of amphetamines, cocaine and ecstasy
- efforts to tackle heroin addiction are “inadequate”
- more than 40,000 drug addicts in England have been “stranded on the substitute methadone”
- a third of people in England on prescriptions such as methadone had been on them for four or more years
There is an excellent Executive Summary on pages 14 to 21 of the report
As those who have previously read my blog will know, I have a particular interest in treatment of addiction, and have for 25 years been a passionate advocate for abstinence-based treatment. I have previously welcomed the Coalition Government’s drug strategy which called for a treatment revolution and the championing of abstinence. It is therefore disappointing, although not surprising, that one conclusion reached in the CSJ report relates to treatment:
“Recovery for addicts is still not the aim for addicts in treatment, alcohol abuse is rising and costing the nation more, new drugs are being abused by increasing numbers and costing more and more lives, and new, high-tech supply routes are opening up. Currently government is not addressing these issues adequately.”
I am pleased that in Brighton and Hove I have noticed in the last couple of years a significant positive shift in the debate around treatment and abstinence. (The very unhelpful report published by the Independent Drugs Commission for Brighton and Hove cannot, sadly, be included in this shift – I have previously said publicly that that that report has set back the debate about drugs in the City, particularly its obsession with consumption rooms).
Across the country people are being ‘parked’ on methadone for years and years, a failure highlighted by the CSJ. The CSJ report paints a worrying picture about spend on prescribed interventions compared to investment in the most effective form of treatment, residential treatment:
“Unhelpfully, cuts have occurred to effective treatment services whilst the ineffective have been protected:
- 55 per cent of local authorities have cut funding to the most effective form of treatment, residential rehabilitation;
- The NHS ring-fence has protected the pooled treatment budget which supports prescribed interventions.”
At a conference recently I said that parking someone on methadone for years on end would be regarded as “monstrous”.
Locally, I do see a silver lining on the horizon in Brighton and Hove, not least with the on-going reduction in drug-related deaths and more regular discussions about recovery and abstinence. I just hope we can move on from the unhelpful intervention of the Independent Drug Commission.
As a country we have a long way to go, and I hope the Government will pay proper attention to this excellent report.