Over three-quarters of the public support the provision and funding of treatment for individuals wanting to overcome drug dependency, according to a poll published today by leading drugs information and policy charity DrugScope.
The poll findings are being released to coincide with the publication of Drug treatment at the crossroads a new DrugScope report highlighting the effectiveness of drug treatment alongside recommendations on how to improve it further.
The specially-commissioned DrugScope/ICM poll, conducted in February 2009, found that of 1,039 respondents:
- 76 per cent agreed that 'investment in drug treatment is a sensible use of government money, so long as it benefits individuals, families and communities', with 27 per cent registering 'strong' approval for this statement.
- 88 per cent agreed that 'drug treatment should be available to anyone with an addiction to drugs who is prepared to address it', with 42 per cent registering 'strong' agreement on this point.
The results complement today’s Drug treatment at the crossroads report,particularly its overarching message that drug treatment is effective and should remain a priority for public investment. The report, which brings together views on drug treatment from across the drug sector and beyond, has been developed in response to a growing public and political debate about the aims, value and efficacy of treatment .
In October 2007, the publication of figures showing that only a small percentage of drug users left drug treatment free of all drugs (including the opiate substitute methadone) was covered extensively in the media, leading to intense public and political analysis and wide-ranging criticism of drug treatment.
DrugScope ran a series of seminars in 2008 called 'The Great Debate', to discuss and debate how well drug treatment was working in the UK. Today’s report summarises much of what was said by participants at ‘The Great Debate' events and makes a number of recommendations on how to further improve the effectiveness of drug treatment.
Key recommendations include:
- Drug treatment should remain a priority for public investment. There is clear evidence of the benefits of drug treatment for individuals, families and communities
- Politicians from all parties should publicly commit to an evidence-based approach to drug policy. Evidence-based drug treatment delivers positive public health outcomes, reductions in drug-related crime, and delivers to the tax-payer by being cost-effective.
- Choice in drug treatment should be promoted. Drug treatment should support both harm reduction and abstinence-focussed approaches. Methadone and other substitute drugs play an important role in drug treatment but more research is needed into alternatives to substitute prescribing.
- Abstinence is a desirable outcome of drug treatment, but only when it is safely and realistically achievable.
- More needs to be done to reduce drug-related deaths. Abstinence-based services should be required to have robust policies for managing relapse and the associated risk, particularly of post-detox overdose.
- There should be more recognition and support for the contribution made by the families and carers of drug users to the recovery process, including appropriate financial assistance.
Martin Barnes, DrugScope Chief Executive, said today:
"The findings of the DrugScope/ICM poll into public attitudes to drug treatment are extremely encouraging. Drug treatment has been subject to intense scrutiny and, at times, uninformed and unwarranted criticism over the past eighteen months. With the publication of this report, we are hoping to refresh and reinvigorate the debate - but with the hope of a more positive and supportive approach from all involved.
"While there should be space for informed and constructive criticism of the drug treatment system, drug treatment is worthy of public investment and should be delivered in the most effective way possible, to help drug users get their lives back on track.
"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."
On Thursday 12 March, an Early Day Motion (EDM) in support of continued public investment in drug treatment was tabled in the House of Commons by Dr Brian Iddon MP. The EDM, co-sponsored by MPs from the Conservative, Labour and Liberal Democrat parties, urges ‘members of the House to commit to continued public investment in drug treatment, informed by the best available research’.
For more information and/or interviews contact Andrew McNicoll at the DrugScope Press Office on 0207 520 7563 or email email@example.com