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From the letters page DDN June 2019

APPALLING OVERSIGHT
Thank you for publishing the article ‘System Failure’ about the lack of support for people who’ve experienced childhood sexual abuse (DDN, May, page 10). While I’m glad that this issue is finally getting some attention, the fact that it seems never to have been properly addressed in most services is an astonishing oversight. I was also shocked to learn that there’s not even a system in place to collect this sort of data in the first place.

The article quotes Chip Somers saying, ‘We all know the numbers are immense, yet this is an issue which still gets sidelined.’

Chip Somers clinical advisor at helpmestop.org.uk
Chip Somers clinical advisor at helpmestop.org.uk

I can attest to this, having raised the subject more than once in my previous job only to essentially get fobbed off. It seems a wasted opportunity of immense proportions, particularly at a time when funding is becoming ever more scarce.

If someone has an entrenched drug or alcohol problem because they’re self-medicating to numb the pain of an underlying issue as serious as this, what on earth is the point of not properly addressing that issue or not referring them on to qualified, professional help? They’ll finish treatment, relapse sooner or later, and be right back where they started. It’s essentially the equivalent of giving a cancer patient some heavy painkillers but no treatment for the condition itself.

The need for ‘better joined up working’ has become a mantra in this field, as it has in many others, and we all know it’s often just something to say. But all services should have an effective process in place for referring the people who need it to specialist support, as they should when it comes to the – clearly not unconnected – area of mental health. Otherwise we’re letting our clients down appallingly, and basically just wasting our time.
Name and address supplied

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AWKWARD FACTS
Your ‘Media Savvy’ section very often features national newspaper columnists opining that the ‘war on the drugs’ has been lost and the only sensible solution is legalisation and regulation. This is now pretty much mainstream thought in broadsheet newspapers across the political spectrum, the most recent example being Christine Jardine of the Independent (DDN, May, page 13). Young people are ‘pushed towards dealers, and dangerous unregulated backstreet drugs’, she tells us. Would the drugs be less dangerous if they were bought on a main road then?

Vice also had a handy article a few days ago called ‘How to legalise every drug’. Here, Steve Rolles of Transform pops up to tell us that for cocaine, for example, a ‘licensed user pharmacy’ model would be the best option.

Steve Rolles of Transform Drug Policy Foundation proposes a ‘licensed user pharmacy’ arrangement for drug sales
Steve Rolles of Transform Drug Policy Foundation proposes a ‘licensed user pharmacy’ arrangement for drug sales

People would have to pass an assessment to buy a ‘rationed amount – say a gram a week’, and the price would also need to be kept high enough to ‘avoid encouraging use’.

Am I missing something here? If you have any kind of a cocaine problem then a gram a week isn’t going to be anywhere near enough, so you’ll be straight back round to your dealer. Ditto if he can offer a better price, which he will – obviously. So how is this going to take the market out of the hands of dealers and criminals?

And wait, I thought part of the argument about legalising and regulating drugs – especially heroin – was that people wouldn’t then be driven to acquisitive crime to fund their habit because the prices were too high? So the price needs to be high enough to discourage use, but not so high that they encourage crime? How much, then? To add to the confusion, it’s often the same people calling for legalisation who also want to see minimum pricing introduced for alcohol to discourage harmful use, because the prices for that are too low.

One can only wonder how they manage to square that particular circle in their heads.

The elephant in the room is of course the US, where the overdose rate quadrupled in the first 15 years of this century as, coincidentally, did opioid prescribing levels. That’s half a million people dead, a lot of it from legal, regulated drugs. And then there’s mephedrone.

Before it was banned it had very high rates of use among students and other young people who’d never taken drugs before but thought this was OK because it was a ‘legal high’. When it was made illegal, rates of use fell off a cliff. But those sort of facts are a bit awkward, aren’t they? So let’s just ignore them.
Molly Cochrane, by email

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