Pubdate: Fri, 25 Jul 2008
Source: Herald, The (Glasgow, UK)
Copyright: 2008 Newsquest (Herald & Times) Limited
Author: Roger Howard


Your editorial ("The drugs scourge", July 23) rightly concludes that
"there are no short-term solutions" to the multiplicity of problems
experienced by heroin and other drug-users.

Having worked with Scottish colleagues, including those in the
parliament and government over the past year, we are well aware of the
progress being made with the development of the recent drug strategy
Road to Recovery.

But not only is there no short-term solution, there is also the risk
of unintended consequences coming from some policies that may at first
seem intuitively appealing. Methadone substitution treatment is a good
example. It has powerful evidence to support its use and, indeed, even
expansion to help more people in need. However, the evidence suggests
policy-makers and professionals over the years have taken their eye
off the ball about putting in place the other necessary support
services (for instance, in relation to employment and housing) to help
people through the recovery process.

Similarly, the issue of welfare benefit reform and the plans in
England (which may be adopted by Scotland) to make benefit payments
for drug addicts dependent on engaging with treatment could have
unforeseen implications.

One of the few pieces of research on this topic (from America) found
that denying welfare benefits to those convicted of possessing or
selling drugs increased the risks to children and families, and
minority groups were hit disproportionately hard.

This demonstrates that well-planned policies, properly piloted and
evaluated, have to be the foundation of attempts to reduce the damage
caused by drugs. Unfortunately, many areas of drug policy throughout
the UK remain relatively "evidence-lite".

Roger Howard,
Chief Executive,
UK Drug Policy Commission,
11 Park Place, London.
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MAP posted-by: dan