Letter from Peter O’Loughlin regarding the NTA Report

The following letter from Peter O’Loughlin regarding the NTA Report is very illuminating. Harm Reduction is central to the UK government policy on drugs but the continued increase in deaths related to drug misuse must surely necessitate a change. Prevention first, then intervention, then treatment leading to abstinence. Treatment should include the choice of residential for those who desire it and harm reduction should be used as a last resort for a limited time.
SMMGP POLICY UPDATE – Good Practice in Harm Reduction Report NTA (October 2008)

I would respectfully point out that the claim regarding reduction in drug related deaths fails to acknowledge the fact that there was an increase between 2003-4, largely accounted for by deaths involving heroin/methadone and morphine (1)

Your update also disregards the fact that drug related deaths are at their highest for 5 years.(2) In fact as you should be aware the total number of drug poisoning deaths in 2007 including a staggering 16 per cent rise in deaths involving heroin and morphine compared to 2006, increased to 2,640.

It is even more regrettable that you chose not to point out that deaths from heroin and morphine appear to be increasing year on year, or the fact that in 2007 there were 196 deaths involving cocaine, the highest recorded number of deaths involving cocaine since the ONS database began in 1993.

A further notable omission are the deaths relating to methadone, which increased by a wholly unacceptable increase of 35 percent over 2006 to 325 and once again the highest level since 1999.

An even more glaring omission is the fact that in males no less than 67 per cent of drug poisoning deaths were attributable to ‘drug misuse’.

In the light of the foregoing, I have to consider whether your update ‘Good practice in Harm Reduction’ is being unrealistically optimistic, or, like the title, misleading. I will reserve judgement pending your comments.

(1) Office of national Statistic in 2007s: April 2007

(2) Office of national Statistics: Health Quarterly Statistics autumn 2008.

Source: e-mail from Peter O’Loughlin, The Eden Lodge Practice.
Date: Fri, 6 Feb 2009

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