Drink and Drugs News DDN November 2019 (1) | Page 6

15 YEARS OF DDN WHAT A LONG STRA When DDN launched way back in 2004 Tony Blair was prime minister, the NTA was just three years old, and the money was flowing into drug treatment. Today the sector, and the country, are very different places 2004 The year starts with cannabis being moved from class B to class C, a status it would manage to retain for a full five years before yo-yoing back up again. The government launches its Alcohol harm reduction strategy for England, which the BMJ quickly dismisses as the ‘dampest of squibs’. Any government serious about addressing the issue would increase the price, the journal states – ‘it’s the one measure that will reliably reduce harm.’ 2005 In a perhaps naïve attempt to usher in a culture of civilised, continental-style alcohol consumption, the provisions of the 2003 Licensing Act come into force, allowing theoretical 24-hour drinking and generating predictably apocalyptic headlines. The government re-classifies magic mushrooms to class A, and – not for the last time – Britons are identified as among Europe’s biggest consumers of cocaine. 2006 The government warns drugs gangs to ‘be afraid’ as it launches the Serious Organised Crime Agency (SOCA), while – in a sign of how much times have changed – the sector expresses disappointment that this year’s increase in the Pooled Treatment Budget is ‘only’ 28 per cent rather than the 40 per cent first promised. Scotland’s ban on smoking in public places comes into force, with England, Wales and Northern Ireland following the next year. 2007 The government begins consulting on its next drug strategy, pledging to focus on ‘educating the young and protecting the vulnerable’, while almost 9,000 people fill in the NTA’s user satisfaction survey, with effective care plans and ‘being treated with respect’ identified as key 6 • DRINK AND DRUGS NEWS • NOVEMBER 2019 positives. The RSA’s Drugs – facing facts report calls for a shift from a criminal justice to a health-based approach, while the Independent Working Group on Drug Consumption Rooms recommends that UK pilot schemes be established – 12 years later not one will have been allowed. 2008 The global financial crisis hits, setting the scene for the austerity policies that would later see funding for treatment and other services slashed. The government’s ten-year Drugs: protecting families and communities strategy launches, with offers of support to people who use drugs in return for ‘responsibility’. Transform calls it a ‘miserable regurgitation of past mistakes’ while, depressingly, two thirds of respondents to a MORI poll believe that people infected with HIV through injecting drug use have ‘only themselves to blame’. The abstinence v harm reduction wars continue, with Alliance policy officer Peter McDermott branding ‘recovery’ as ‘jargon for state drugs apparatchiks’. DDN’s first service user conference, Nothing about us without us, draws 600 delegates – three times the projected number. 2009 The Scottish Government announces its plans for MUP by stating that ‘strong drink will no longer be sold for pocket money prices’, heralding the beginnings of a legal battle with the industry that will drag on for the best part of a decade. Home secretary Alan Johnson sacks ACMD chair David Nutt for stating that alcohol is more harmful than ecstasy, LSD or cannabis and, in what will become something of a familiar scenario, the government also ignores the ACMD’s recommendation to downgrade MDMA to class B. 2006: The government warns drugs gangs to ‘be afraid’ as it launches the Serious Organised Crime Agency 2010 In another soon-to- be-familiar scenario the EMCDDA announces that the number of new drugs reported to it is the biggest ever. NHS figures show that Scotland’s rate of chronic liver disease has tripled in the last 15 years, and the death toll in the first ever drug-related outbreak of anthrax – the result of contaminated heroin – reaches double figures. The Drug strategy 2010 is published to a lukewarm response, with DrugScope questioning how its aims could WWW.DRINKANDDRUGSNEWS.COM