What Mr. Barnes failed to mention

“National Drug Treatment Monitoring System (NDTMS) data on treatment modalities shows that 131,110 people received substitute prescribing treatment. During the same period, 5,350 people received PTB-funded treatment in residential rehabilitation centres.”

“We should be justly proud of what has been achieved in drug treatment. The sustained investment in recent years has resulted in significantly increased capacity, accessibility and take-up of drug treatment services. However, there is both the need and opportunity to further improve retention and treatment outcomes, not least by ensuring that problem drug users are able to access core services such as housing, employment and training opportunities. It is the time to evaluate where we are and how we can make drug treatment even better.” Martin Barnes Drugscope


posted by Peter O’Loughlin on 14 Mar 2009 at 5:05 am:

What Mr. Barnes failed to mention.

1. Drug related deaths in accordance with the UK official definition are at their highest for 5 years. (Health Statistics Quarterly 39. Office of National Statistics)

2. The level of HIV and other blood born diseases among Injecting Drug Users is higher now than at the start of the decade.

3 .In London where the prevalence of HIV is higher than anywhere else in England, 1 in 20 Injecting Drug Users is infected.

4 .In the remainder of England and Wales HIV among IDUs has risen from approximately one in 400 to 1 in 250 in 2006.

5 .The prevalence of hepatitis C among IDUs has increased from 33% in 2000 to 42% in 2006.

6. Approximately on in 5 IDUs has hepatitis B, which represents an increase of something like 200 per cent since 1997.

The foregoing is neither ‘uninformed’, or ‘unwarranted’ criticism, they are however the inescapable facts which Mr. Barnes seems either keen to suppress or is unaware of, In either event his opinion that “we should be justly proud of what has been achieved in drug treatment”, is hardly a balanced judgment of the escalation in both drug related deaths and disease which is being inflicted on our society. Nor the increasing level of drug offences and drug related crime.

Whether or not this catastrophic outcome of our drug treatment strategy can be wholly attributed to the harm reduction treatment protocols which has dominated it for so many years, and of which Mr. Barnes is an enthusiast, is the principle cause of the seemingly out of control increase in death, disease and crime, is debatable, what is not debatable is that we have no reason or justification to be proud that we have presided over an escalating and avoidable loss of life, death and criminal activity; nor is Mr. Barnes justified in claiming that we have.

Follow-Up Opinions

Failings Found In Needle Exchange Services.
posted by Mary Brett on 17 Mar 2009 at 1:49 pm
Among other failings found in a survey by the NTA of needle exchanges in England 2006, 50% of DATS had no access to virus testing on site, 40% no immunisation in place, about a third lacked hygiene and safer technique discussions.

Data collection was poor – DATS able to provide numbers of clients and visits, quantity of equipment distributed and returned were in the minority. Only 74% of DATS, 55% of needle exchange service providers and 48% of pharmacies provided information. There was a lack of training for co-ordinators and access to facilities was mostly limited to the working week. Very few operated at weekends or during the evening or night. Largely missing was any monitoring of discarded needles or injuries arising from them to the public.
Has anything been done to improve this situation? From the latest figures, quoted here, it would appear not to be the case.

Quantity V Quality
posted by Peter O’Loughlin on 18 Mar 2009 at 6:11 am
Thank you for your revealing and interesting contribution Mary.

It seems as if the NTA’s obsession with numbers treated, rather than treatment outcomes could be a contributory factor to the spread of blood born disease.

It is also depressing to learn that those hardy souls in the front line for whom I have considerable respect and admiration, are being deprived of the fundamental training and facilities needed to improve outcomes.

No doubt the apparent focus on numbers is to enable those responsible to issue gushing reports of achievement through the simplistic process of counting the numbers of needles issued, rather than positive outcomes of how those who use the facilities might be engaged in recovery.

A case of ‘never mind the quality, feel the width’.

If we add to that the seeming disregard of the danger to the public caused by discarded needles, then harm reduction as it is being practised in this country is creating more problems than it is resolving.

It seems to me that those people who sit in their ‘ivory towers’ dreaming up ‘harm reduction’ solutions have failed to realise that addiction is not confined to office hours and that when the addicted are craving for a fix, the lack of a clean needle will not prevent them from using.

Now exactly what is it that Mr Barnes of DrugScope feels we have reason to be ‘justly proud of’?

Is it the number of needles issued?

The injury to children and others arising from discarded needles?

The lack of training and supervision and hygiene facilities? Or the escalation, in avoidable deaths and disease?

The one thing I do agree with Mr. Barnes on is that more, much more is needed to reduce both drug related deaths and disease, and the most realistic way of achieving that is through abstinence focused recovery.

What Mr Barnes seems unable to grasp is that there is a world of difference between abstinence and recovery. Nor does he seem willing to acknowledge that the outcome of addiction is always abstinence. The latter is not an option as Mr Barnes appears to be suggesting. It is achieved either through premature death, a reality which is already occurring, or abstinence focused treatment followed by on going after care; realities that neither Mr. Barnes or the NTA seem willing or able, to confront.

Source:Posts between Peter O’Loughlin on 18 Mar 2009  and Mary Brett CSS after statement from Drugscope 

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