Adfam Policy Briefing February 2017

Our monthly update with the latest comment, reports, resources, policy and parliamentary news on families, drugs and alcohol.



Parliamentary Roundup



In Focus


Perhaps one of the most controversial issues surrounding drug use is whether or not some or all illegal drugs should be decriminalised or legalised. The recreational and/or medicinal use of cannabis is now legal in several places around the world, and the decriminalisation and legalisation debate is rising in profile. However, in many discussions, the voices of family members are not heard.

We are therefore researching the views of family members. We are aware that this is a sensitive and perhaps contentious subject – we seek to explore and amplify their views and will be driven by what you tell us rather than adopting a pre-decided standpoint one way or the other. We are keen to hear from as many people who have been affected by a loved one’s drug use as possible so we can capture a full range of views.

Family members can contribute their views by filling in this short survey. Already we have received some very interesting insights into the experiences of families and their subsequent views on both sides of the debate, and look forward to seeing what the full picture tells us so that we can work to support families better.

Updates from the last month

Parliamentary Roundup

Alcohol Harm (Westminster Hall debate) Fiona Bruce MP, Liam Byrne MP and Bill Esterson MP, the chairs of the APPGs on Alcohol Harm, Children of Alcoholics and Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder respectively, secured a Westminster Hall debate on Alcohol Harm on Thursday 2nd February. Nicola Blackwood MP, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health, promised to work with colleagues to tackle the social injustice of alcohol harm.

Andrew Stephenson MP asked what steps the Secretary of State for Health was taking to reduce the number of deaths from illegal drugs. Nicola Blackwood MP, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health, replied that the Government was taking a number of actions, including supporting effective treatment, making distribution of naloxone easier and helping local authorities improve their drug-related death review processes.

Caroline Flint MP asked the Prime Minister, Theresa May, whether she will work with the APPG on Children of Alcoholics on the first ever Government strategy to help children of problem drinkers. Theresa May replied that the Government will look at the proposals carefully.


NDTMS reporting consultation – Public Health England (PHE)
PHE is keen to gather information on how the reports and toolkits from the NDTMS (National Drug Monitoring Treatment System) are being used in the current operating environment and whether they are still meeting user’s needs. This is an opportunity for users of NDTMS data to provide feedback on how PHE can improve existing reporting and what works well and what doesn’t.

NPS use surveys - Liverpool John Moores University
Researchers from the Public Health Institute at Liverpool John Moores University are researching the use of NPS. They have put together two surveys: one on the use of mephedrone and one on the use of synthetic cannabinoids. They invite UK residents aged 18 years or older who have used mephedrone and/or synthetic cannabinoids at least once in the past 12 months to participate.


Drug misuse treatment in England – Public Health England (PHE)

This evidence review aims to give policy makers and local areas an idea of the outcomes that can be expected of drug misuse treatment in England. It also reviews the impact of housing problems, unemployment and social deprivation on treatment engagement and outcomes, considers how drug treatment will need to be configured to meet future need and recommends an appropriate set of measures to address this.

Highways and buyways: a snapshot of UK drug scenes 2016 (pdf) – DrugWise

DrugWise has published the findings of its survey into the UK drug scene in 2016. Key findings include unprecedented street purity levels for heroin, crack, cocaine and ecstasy; some aims of the Psychoactive Substances Act being achieved but new forms of synthetic cannabinoids being dealt on the streets; reports of young people using heroin to self-medicate from synthetic cannabinoids; and increasing numbers coming forward to agencies with cannabis as a primary problem.

Report of a focus group of people living with alcohol-related brain damage (ARBD) and their carers (pdf) – Alcohol Concern

This report comes from Alcohol Concern's project aimed at increasing and improving support for people with alcohol-related brain damage and their families. It brings together the experiences of patients and their families, and recommends ways to improve the support, in particular stressing the importance of staff being empathetic and keeping carers informed of what is happening.

Supporting young carers: an introductory guide for professionals (pdf) – The Children’s Society

This is an introductory guide for professionals working with young carers and their families. It includes information on identifying situations where support for young carers and their families might be needed and how support can then be offered. It also includes personal messages from young carers and disabled parents and information on supporting legislation and guidance.

Charity Today 2017 – ACEVO, the Charities Aid Foundation (CAF), the Institute of Fundraising, CharityComms

This new report provides an overview of the charity sector today. There are over 160,000 registered charities in England and Wales and they spend £136.4 million every day on improving lives and supporting communities - equivalent to £1,578 per second. Around 2.9 billion hours are given by volunteers each year and over £9.6 billion is donated by the British public. 

In Focus

If you talk to almost any person who supports a loved one with a serious drug or alcohol problem, sooner or later the issue of mental health comes up. The co-occurrence of these issues is known to some under the technical term of ‘dual diagnosis’ but to many people around the country mental ill health is simply experienced as part of sustained substance use. The question, of course, for lots of families is: which came first? Does mental ill health make us more likely to develop unhealthy relationships with drugs or alcohol? Or does substance use lead to mental illness?

The answer is perhaps a bit of both, though for families this question may actually be a diversion and not amongst the most pressing issues they face. These remain: "How do I get some help for myself?" and "How do I support my loved one into some kind of recovery?". To answer these questions we must first understand how families are affected by dual diagnosis. We are therefore very excited that Adfam has received funding from the Sir Halley Stewart Trust to examine the topic. From April this year we will be speaking to the experts to find out more – and by experts I don’t mean clinicians or policy-makers. I mean the thousands of men and women who have experienced the dual diagnosis of loved ones in very real ways.
We look forward to consulting families through a series of focus groups and phone interviews to build an accurate picture of how they are affected. We will be in touch in due course and thank you in advance for your input.

With best wishes

Oliver Standing
Director of Policy and Communications
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