DDN December 2022 DDN Dec_2022 - Page 17




In a tumultuous year that saw three prime ministers and a war in Europe , the sector tries to get back on its feet after COVID and a decade of tightening budgets
JANUARY With COVID still casting a shadow over the country , research by Newcastle University and NIHR finds that people already in the top fifth of heaviest drinking households were buying 17 times more alcohol during lockdown than those in the lower fifth , while a separate NHS Digital report says annual alcohol-specific hospital admissions have hit 280,000 – an 8 per cent increase in just three years .
FEBRUARY The NHS opens two new gambling clinics to try to cope with ‘ record ’ demand , while the Royal College of Psychiatrists warns that thousands of young people struggling with substance issues are ‘ falling through the cracks ’ of treatment services as the pandemic compounds the problems caused by shrinking budgets .
MARCH Despite the Scottish Government ’ s commitment to spend £ 250m to repair its struggling treatment system , drug and alcohol data north of the border is still ‘ not good enough ’, the country ’ s
auditor general warns , with an ongoing lack of transparency about how money is being allocated and spent .
APRIL The Committee for Advertising Practice announces a ban on gambling firms using content likely to appeal to young people – such as sports stars and social media influencers – in their ads , while the Biden administration ’ s first drug strategy adopts a harm reduction approach in the face of record US overdose deaths .
MAY The Home Office issues its first ever licence for a regular drug checking service , operated by The Loop in Bristol . In stark contrast , crime and policing minister Kit Malthouse pens an article in the Telegraph warning that ‘ middle-class cocaine users ’ risk losing their passports and driving licences , while the ACMD states that the UK ’ s drug prevention system – especially ‘ fear-based ’ campaigns – is failing .
JUNE ‘ We wondered if it would ever happen – and then there we were ’. DDN holds its first conference for three years , with a palpable sense of energy as delegates gather in Birmingham for All Together Now . UNODC says worldwide cocaine manufacture is at its highest level ever , while EMCDDA adds that the European drug market has rapidly ‘ bounced back ’ after COVID , with cocaine availability now surpassing pre-pandemic levels . In Ireland , meanwhile , the drug overtakes heroin as the main problem substance for people seeking treatment for the first time .
JULY Scotland sees the first fall in its drug-related death total in almost a decade , although it ’ s just 1 per cent . In its final report , the country ’ s Drug Deaths Taskforce states that the issue has ‘ not been given the priority it deserves ’ and that many feel the healthcare system ‘ often sees only the drug problem and does not recognise the person ’, a perception that ‘ dissuades many from accessing services ’.
AUGUST Days after Scotland records its slight fall in drug deaths , England and Wales yet again register their highest ever drug poisoning death toll – a 6 per cent increase on the previous year , at 4,859 . As always the death rate in the North East is ‘ statistically significantly higher ’ than elsewhere , says ONS . Meanwhile , a YouGov survey finds that two thirds of adults think government drug policy isn ’ t working .
SEPTEMBER In the heart of the North East ’ s drug crisis , Middlesbrough ’ s
ground-breaking HAT programme is set to close as funding runs out , while global drug executions increase by more than 300 per cent in a year . Meanwhile , Entain Group – which runs Ladbrokes . com , coral . co . uk and foxybingo . com – is slapped with a record £ 17m fine . Even people subject to gambling restrictions were able to open multiple accounts with its other brands , the Gambling Commission finds , with one customer blocked by Coral able to immediately deposit £ 30,000 with Ladbrokes – in a single day .
OCTOBER While the money now flowing into the sector means that services finally have the funds for new staff , many are finding that a health and social care recruitment crisis means the candidates just aren ’ t there , commissioners tell DDN . Offering more money also risks destabilising other parts of the system , warns ESUCG chair Chris Lee . ‘ If you can earn three grand a year more as a drug worker than in the homeless hostel down the road , then you ’ re going to do that ’ – something that ‘ doesn ’ t help anybody because we need a workforce plan right across that multiple and complex needs sector .’
NOVEMBER Fears that the sector ’ s new funding might fall victim to cuts in the chancellor ’ s Autumn Statement thankfully prove unfounded , while more than 50 organisations write to the prime minister calling for the alcohol equivalent of Dame Carol Black ’ s Independent review of drugs . DDN , meanwhile , celebrates its 18th birthday – here ’ s to the next 18 ! DDN