The Independent Review of Drugs: our response

Lucy Holmes | July 2021 | 7 minutes

Read Alcohol Change UK's response to the second report of the Independent Review of Drugs.

Alcohol Change UK welcomes the publication today of the second report of the Independent Review of Drugs by Professor Dame Carol Black [8 July 2021]. While the review focused on drugs, many of its recommendations apply equally to alcohol treatment and support services, which are usually jointly commissioned and delivered alongside drug treatment.

It is essential that government considers the needs of people dependent on alcohol as they review and implement these recommendations.

Both alcohol-related deaths and deaths caused by drugs have been increasing for many years[i], and both alcohol and drugs cost the economy billions of pounds each year.[ii] The government must act urgently to reduce this harm and save lives.

The drug and alcohol treatment system in the UK is broken and we particularly welcome the report’s call for significant reform. As the report recognises, we need a whole-system overhaul and a coordinated approach to tackle the problem.

We support the report’s call for a substantial uplift in funding for treatment services. As outlined in part one of the review, years of funding cuts have caused a huge drop in the number of residential rehab places. Some local areas have responded to funding cuts by rationing treatment through raising eligibility thresholds, at the same time as numbers of people in treatment have fallen. There is a looming crisis in the workforce providing drug and alcohol treatment: the number of training places for addiction psychiatrists has plummeted.

Alcohol Change UK supports the review’s recommendations and calls on government to apply them not only to drug services but also to alcohol treatment and support. Alcohol harm deserves equal national attention and strong leadership, and must be recognised as a fundamental part of the drug and alcohol treatment and support system.

We are further calling for a new cross-government national alcohol strategy to give alcohol harm the attention it so urgently requires, and to ensure that dependent drinkers receive the same quality of treatment and support as people who use drugs.

[i] Office for National Statistics (2020) Quarterly alcohol-specific deaths in England and Wales: 2001 to 2019 registrations and Quarter 1 (Jan to Mar) to Quarter 4 (Oct to Dec) 2020 provisional registrations

[ii] Public Health England (2016) The public health burden of alcohol and the effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of alcohol control policies