A report by a centre-right ‘think tank’ will advocate taxing units of alcohol to pay for a vast expansion of rehabs in the UK. The press release from the Centre for Social Justice doesn’t pull its punches:
“Almost 50,000 heroin addicts have been ‘parked’ on state-supplied methadone for more than four years”
“Addicts who continually refuse treatment could have benefits reduced”
“Deaths linked to ‘legal highs’ could be higher than heroin in just two years”
“A levy of a penny per unit [of alcohol] would be added by the end of the next Parliament to fund recovery services to the tune of £1.1billion over the five years”
“To help protect addicts’ families, the CSJ also recommends the piloting of a ‘welfare card’ where a proportion of benefits would have to be spent on essentials like food, clothing and travel”
“It (the report) is also highly critical of the Government’s flagship drug and alcohol prevention programme, FRANK, which it describes as ‘shamefully inadequate’”
I guess I’ve selected the most controversial parts of the press release and the report, when it appears, my be more nuanced and evidence based, but I worry that this kind of approach will simply polarise things further. I do believe the balance between maintenance treatment and abstinence oriented treatment is not right in the UK and that with widespread adaptation of recovery oriented systems of care, we could help many more folk into recovery, but the way to do this is through dialogue, mutual understanding and taking folk with us, not taking up oppositional positions, something I worry might come out of this.
Although not new, there are interesting ideas to explore here. Should part of the revenue from taxation of alcohol go to pay for treatment for the small proportion of folk who get addicted? Maybe. Carrots or sticks or both for those who decline to enter evidence based treatment, but want to remain on benefits? What practical child protection safeguards should their be when parental substance misuse is a problem? What will happen if new psychoactive substance use continues to grow and will we be ready for it? Would greater availability of residential rehab have benefits? All legitimate for debate.
Let’s see what the report says when it’s released, which I’m presuming will be this week.