Letter: Tackling drugs

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The Independent Culture
Sir: Kathy Marks questions the value of the "drugs tsar" ("Is he worth it?", 26 May). We take a rather different view.

Independent research shows that treatment works and that its costs are more than outweighed by its benefits, with one recent study estimating a saving of pounds 3 for every pounds 1 spent. We welcome the fact that in his first annual report Mr Hellawell reaffirmed the position of treatment at the heart of his strategy and set new targets for its expansion over the next decade.

We have our concerns of course. If it is to be effective, treatment must be targeted to the particular needs of the individual and must be delivered to a high standard by well-trained and supervised staff. It also needs to be properly funded. Whilst the government has pledged more money for treatment the amounts are woefully inadequate. And the funding system is a mess, with too much bureaucracy, confusion about who is responsible for paying, and excessive focus on short-term costs rather than longer- term benefits.

We will continue to press for the changes necessary if we are to have any chance of winning the battle against drug addiction. But Mr Hellawell has placed treatment and its expansion at the heart of his strategy and has secured some (albeit not enough) additional funding from the Treasury to help pay for it. For this we and the addicts we represent must give credit where it is due.

SIMON SHEPHERD

Chief Executive

European Association for the Treatment of Addiction

Rugby, Warwickshire

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