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Mongan, Deirdre (2007) 2007 National Drug Treatment Conference. Drugnet Ireland , Issue 22, Summer 2007 , p. 16.

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The 2007 National Drug Treatment Conference was held in London on 15–16 March.  Four major themes were addressed by the conference: social exclusion, poverty and drugs; detox and aftercare; legal and political issues for drug treatment; and new treatments.  

Mike McCarron, national drugs liaison officer for the Scottish Association of Alcohol and Drug Action Teams described the association between poverty and drug use and said that to tackle drug problems you have to deal with the underlying social issues.  He admitted that to do this would take investment that some taxpayers might find unpalatable, but said he believed that if the facts were made available to them they would see that such investment was desirable in the long term.  Brian Iddon MP spoke of the futility of a ‘War on Drugs’, and said we now need a war on the causes of drug misuse, namely social exclusion and poverty.  He claimed that current drug policy merely caused displacement, whether of cocaine growers in South America who moved production from Columbia to other countries, or of users in the UK who switched from illegal drugs to prescription drugs which are easily available on the internet without regulation.  He recommended that the current ABC classification of drugs should be abandoned and a system introduced that reflects a 50:50 split between harm to the user and harm to the general public.  He cited a recent spectrum of harm developed by David Nutt and colleagues which ranks both alcohol and tobacco among the top ten most harmful drugs.

David Best of Birmingham University asked why people get so little treatment when we know it gives better outcomes, and why much of the treatment that is given is not sufficiently intensive.  Referring to a study of more than 300 patients receiving counselling treatment, he demonstrated that the average fortnightly sessions, which also involved case management as well as advice and support on related issues such as housing and employment, often meant that clients only received just over 20 minutes of actual counselling a month, or around four hours a year.  He spoke of the need to look for exits from treatment and to start thinking of addiction as a career with a beginning, middle and end, not as a permanent chronic condition.  A number of speakers spoke about detoxification and its effectiveness in treating dependence on opioid and other illicit drugs, and of the need for optimum timing of a detoxification attempt within an addiction career.  

The importance of commissioning integrated drug and alcohol systems was discussed by Trevor McCarthy of the National Treatment Agency (NTA).  He said that fewer than half of drug users had been advised about alcohol during treatment, even though alcohol can dramatically increase depression of the immune system, as well as producing dangerous compounds; for instance, alcohol and cocaine produce cocaethylene when metabolised.  Michael Farrell of the National Addiction Centre said that the problem of heavy drinking among those on maintenance prescribing is considerable and is estimated to occur in approximately 20% of the treatment population.  He spoke of the need for treatment services to determine people’s alcohol dependence.  He also stressed the importance of being able to differentiate between opiate and alcohol withdrawal symptoms as ignorance could be fatal.  Jack Law of Alcohol Focus Scotland spoke of the need to focus on harm reduction related to alcohol.  He attributed problems with young people’s drinking to increased acceptability, availability and affordability of alcohol.  He said that harm reduction interventions would need to be pragmatic and strategic, looking more seriously at drinking environments, community safety initiatives, planning and effective licensing laws and better training of licensees. 

 

Archived material from this conference (NDTC 07) and from previous events is available on the organiser’s website at www.exchangesupplies.org

Item Type
Article
Issue Title
Issue 22, Summer 2007
Date
April 2007
Page Range
p. 16
Publisher
Health Research Board
Volume
Issue 22, Summer 2007
EndNote
Accession Number
HRB (Available)

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