A further update from David Oliver

Posted on March 15, 2011 18:20

As we go into week two of piloting this Drug Strategy blog, I’m really pleased that you’re using it to share your views and ideas across a range of issues that come up in your day to day work. I want to use my post today to respond to some of the themes that have cropped up a few times and I’ll start with a question a number of you have raised about why the strategy refers to drugs and alcohol separately.

We know that alcohol misuse accounts for more health problems, as well as being a driver in crime and disorder. The means by which alcohol is regulated is embedded in historical tradition and the tolerance of responsible consumption; and the licensing controls remain acceptable to the vast majority of people. The way in which we regulate alcohol therefore remains distinct from the method by which we control illicit drugs.

But that doesn’t mean we don’t recognise that a number of you working in the sector deal with the problems caused by both drugs and alcohol. Far from it. In a major step forward the new drug strategy makes it clear that severe alcohol dependence raises similar issues as drug dependency and the commitment to deal with both runs through the Building Recovery section of the strategy. In addition, the new strategy makes it is clear that young people need high quality drug and alcohol education. All this already and a new alcohol strategy still to come!

The Payment by Results approach has also featured in your posts and you’ve identified some of the very same issues that the pilots will face. This is a challenging area in which to deliver payments by outcomes but that does not mean we should not aim to make improvements for this group. The pilots, co-designed with local areas, will look to test whether payments to providers made on the basis of the outcomes achieved help individuals achieve sustained recovery. If the pilots prove to be successful we will look at the best ways to encourage local areas to adopt this approach.

There have also been posts about the medicinal use of cannabis. Some of these comment on the availability of Sativex, which is a cannabis based medicine. To clarify the situation, Sativex can be prescribed under Home Office licence by a GP based on their professional, clinical opinion.

Finally, a number of you are asking how we intend to evaluate the impact of the Drug Strategy. I want to reassure you that work to develop an evaluation framework to assess the effectiveness and value for money of the Drug Strategy is already underway. The Government has also set out the need for greater transparency across its operations to enable the public to hold public bodies and politicians to account. This includes commitments relating to public expenditure, intended to help achieve better value for money.

I look forward to hearing more from you.

David Oliver, Head of Drugs and Alcohol.

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2 responses to A further update from David Oliver

  • Tom said...

    March 16, 2011 11:37

    "The means by which alcohol is regulated is embedded in historical tradition and the tolerance of responsible consumption".

    I must take issue with you here, I thought you were using evidenced based policy, not historical precedent?

    Are you saying you are using historical and cultural precedent over evidence?

    Looks like it to me.

    Reply to Tom's comment

  • Sheryl Dago, service manager for Addaction Derby said...

    March 21, 2011 09:27

    We’d been looking for ways to help our 18-24 year make sustainable improvements to their lives. So, we asked them what they would like to see as part of their treatment. Their response was almost unanimous: They were bored (a key trigger for relapse with drugs and alcohol), and they wanted something to do and a place that was ’just for them’.

    The best thing, they told us, would be a gym - a great idea. Not only would there be a ’one-off’ cost for equipment, it would be free to attend and we wouldn’t need new premises. And it’s exactly the kind of thing that reaps dividends when used as a part of treatment.

    The gym officially opens on March 30th. Unofficially it’s already open. It’s been impossible to keep people away- and not just young people; the parents helped by Addaction’s Breaking The Cycle project love it too.

    Breaking the Cycle supports families, helping parents tackle their substance misuse and to improve stability at home. Most importantly, it helps stop their children growing up with similar problems.

    The families we see also have issues relating to debt, poor housing, mental health and more. We’ve been able to help with all these problems through advocating for the whole family; ensuring an integrated network of support with other agencies.

    Improving the parents’ health is key and that’s where the gym’s proved extremely useful It’s wonderful to see mums and dads who, only months ago, hadn’t considered their health now using the gym, trying to find ways to reduce their blood pressure and considering their diets.

    This all helps ‘Breaking the Cycle’ bring about lasting change. Not that the outcomes aren’t already great; An independent evaluation found 83 % of families saw parents stabilise, reduce and stop their substance misuse. In addition, 81.7 % reduced involvement in harmful behaviour (such as domestic violence). 84 % began to look for work and 87 % began prioritising the health of their children.

    Things like our new gym are often misunderstood. They’re not ’separate’ to recovery; or something people do when they’re not in counselling. Instead, they help create self discipline and confidence, leading to feelings of reward. And when someone feels they’re achieving something, their commitment to recovery improves immensely. It’s brilliant. Especially when you think of the effect it has on their family, too,

    Reply to Sheryl Dago, service manager for Addaction Derby's comment

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