Report challenges the British government's drug strategy

A new report launched tomorrow Thursday 14 October is set to challenge the government's drug strategy. The findings show that the majority of drug addicts contacting drug treatment services in Scotland are looking to achieve abstinence rather than to receive advice on harm reduction from treatment services.

The research, carried out by a team led by Professor Neil McKeganey at the Centre for Drug Misuse at the University of Glasgow, is to be published in the leading journal 'Drugs Education Prevention and Policy'.

The research involved interviewing 1007 drug addicts from 33 drug treatment agencies across Scotland starting drug abuse treatment in 2001. Sixty per cent of those interviewed identified abstinence as their sole reason for contacting drug treatment services. Seven per cent were looking for stabilised drug use and one per cent was looking for advice on safer drug use.

'These figures show that most drug users are contacting treatment services to come off the drugs completely,' explains Professor Neil McKeganey.

'We have to hear these voices and ensure we have services in place that can help addicts overcome their addiction. Over the last ten years we have tended to prioritise harm reduction over abstinence and we need now to ensure that we have a balance between these two important aims.'

Bill Puddicombe, chief executive of Phoenix House, said:

'As the largest provider of abstinence based services, we have known for many years the positive outcome of this approach to treatment. This report supports our philosophy of recovery. We believe people can rebuild their lives, which is why we also help them with education and employment. Our results prove that this approach works. For example, 75 per cent of service users have been successfully detoxed at our Glasgow Adult Residential Service and 67 per cent of Phoenix House Access to Skills and Employment (PHASE) residents have gone on to access further education and paid employment'.

'What are drug users looking for when they contact drug services: abstinence or harm reduction?' will be launched by Professor Neil McKeganey at the Phoenix House Annual General Meeting on 14 October. The report will be published in October 2004 in 'Drugs: Education, Prevention & Policy Journal'.

The research was funded by the Robertson Trust and supported by the Scottish Executive.

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