Where are the new drug and alcohol strategies?

Last week (30th March) Liz McInnes MP, a member of the Drug, Alcohol and Justice Cross-party Parliamentary Group raised the issuLiz Mcinnese of the Government’s promised drug and alcohol strategies in Parliament quoting our CEO, John Jolly;

“As Chief Executive of a drugs and alcohol charity I see the harm that alcohol does on a daily basis. I saw the impact as a police officer. I saw the impact as a probation officer. I saw the impact on children and families as a social worker. For this reason I would urge the Government to take urgent action to develop a national alcohol strategy.”

As part of her case she stated the record levels of drug related deaths, the local authority funding cuts of 40% and the cost of alcohol related diseases to the NHS.

Liz McInnes MP urged the Government to release the revised drug strategy which in February 2016, the Government said it would be publishing ‘soon’. Mrs McInnes presented clear evidence about how the current strategy isn’t working and the urgent need for a revised strategy;

“The shadow Health Secretary, my hon. Friend the Member for Leicester South (Jonathan Ashworth), whose father was sadly an alcoholic, has also called for greater recognition of the damage done by excessive drinking. Drug and alcohol abuse and addiction are not going to go away. Let us hope that both a drugs strategy and an alcohol strategy will be forthcoming as a matter of urgency.”

You can read the full Easter Adjournment Debate below.


Easter Adjournment
30 March 2017

Liz McInnes (Heywood and Middleton) (Lab)

[…] I want to take this opportunity to raise the issue of the Government’s drugs strategy. Drug-related deaths in England and Wales have hit record levels, with cocaine deaths reaching an all-time high in 2015 and deaths involving heroin or morphine doubling over three years to reach record levels.
The Prime Minister is facing a barrage of criticism over the policies she pursued while Home Secretary, with Niamh Eastwood, the executive director of drugs charity Release, saying:
“The Home Office’s pursuit of a ‘tough on drugs’ strategy and refusal to acknowledge the evidence for best practice in drug treatment is quite literally killing people.”
Martin Powell, of the Transform Drug Policy Foundation, echoes that view and says:
“The Home Office—under the now Prime Minister’s watch—is responsible for the highest number of drug deaths ever recorded. That the Prime Minister keeps claiming her drug policy is working should send a chill down the spine of every parent and reasonable person in the country. She knows, from countless studies, what keeps communities safe, and it isn’t driving people away from help and into the hands of criminals. It is responsible reforms that take the drug market away from dealers, and puts it into the hands of doctors and pharmacists.”
Drug-related deaths are increasing, and new drugs and associated problems are causing problems in prisons and emergency departments. In February 2016, the Government confirmed:
“We will shortly be publishing a new Drug Strategy.”
At the Christmas Adjournment, my hon. Friend the Member for North Tyneside (Mary Glindon) reminded the House that, barring an unexpected delivery from Santa Claus, it was still not to be seen. She asked again in the new year and was told that it would be “soon.” So “soon” in Government terms, means months, and “shortly” means more than a year. Will Ministers please announce an actual date for the drug strategy, or would we be better off asking the Easter bunny?
Local Authorities have seen their funding for drug and alcohol treatment slashed by 42% since 2010. Many clients seeking treatment for addiction lead chaotic lives and many struggle with a whole host of difficulties that go far beyond their addiction. They might be embroiled in the criminal justice system and need advice, they might have housing problems or be struggling with trauma, or they might have been in care and survived institutional abuse. Positions for psychologists in drug and alcohol addiction teams who could provide treatment for complex trauma related to sexual abuse have also been cut.
Members of the drugs, alcohol and justice cross-party parliamentary group, of which I am a member, are today debating in the other place the cost of alcohol misuse to the National Health Service. There are more than 1 million alcohol-related hospital admissions each year, and alcohol is a contributory factor in more than 200 different health conditions. Our cross-party group will be discussing alcohol misuse and treatment after Easter, on 26 April. As one regular contributor to group meetings, John Jolly, has said:
“As Chief Executive of a drugs and alcohol charity I see the harm that alcohol does on a daily basis. I saw the impact as a police officer. I saw the impact as a probation officer. I saw the impact on children and families as a social worker. For this reason I would urge the Government to take urgent action to develop a national alcohol strategy”.
The shadow Health Secretary, my hon. Friend the Member for Leicester South (Jonathan Ashworth), whose father was sadly an alcoholic, has also called for greater recognition of the damage done by excessive drinking. Drug and alcohol abuse and addiction are not going to go away. Let us hope that both a drugs strategy and an alcohol strategy will be forthcoming as a matter of urgency.

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