Letter: Pragmatic lessons in the treatment of drug addiction

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The Independent Online
Sir: I have read with interest your two-day feature on the drugs crisis in Britain (2 and 3 March). As the largest national charity helping people with drink, drug and mental health problems, Turning Point can confirm much of what the report has revealed. But we were saddened to see little mention of one very important aspect - the care and treatment of drug users.

Most of our clients do not use drugs simply for entertainment but as a means of dealing with other difficulties in their lives, much in the same way that others use alcohol. The high costs and illicit market in drugs add to their problems. To finance their drug use, they are led into increasingly dangerous and anti-social activity, as your report showed.

This means treatment involves more than just helping users break their habit. It also means helping them to deal with the reasons behind their drug use, improving their living conditions, employment prospects, supporting their family and friends and much more. Much of this work is being carried out by voluntary agencies with minimum funding.

Treatment for drug abuse falls into the Government's new arrangements for community care - largely due to past funding anomalies. To get help, drug users now have to negotiate the bureaucracy of assessment and cash-limited care. Community care has encouraged the development of innovative programmes of care, but it has also placed extra pressure on drug users, which discourages them from coming forward for help.

Yours faithfully,

WENDY THOMSON

Chief Executive

Turning Point

London, E1

3 March

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