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What we say about… Drugs

Alcohol and drugs · Position statements | May 26, 2023

Our key messages

  • Public health has a clear role in preventing, treating and reducing the harm from substance use, including supporting families affected.


  • Substance-related deaths have increased in recent years – services should be equipped to cater for the needs of an ageing cohort of opiate users as well as a cohort with increasing and complex needs as a result of long term substance misuse.


  • The Government should recognise the impact of substance use on wider measures such as child protection, crime reduction and hospital admission and ensure that substance use services focus on outcomes including:
    • harm reduction
    • social integration
    • recovery
    • tackling vulnerability
    • safeguarding and exploitation

Our national recommendations

  • Policy should be more focused on prevention, treatment, recovery and harm reduction than on supply and enforcement.


  • Families of people using substances should be supported to prevent further harms, including generational cycles of trauma, adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) and addiction.


  • Wellbeing should be built into all policy decision making at both national and local levels in order to tackle the social determinants of health.

Our local recommendations

  • Targets should not be set for people to leave treatment within a certain timescale. Instead, the target should be the provision of high quality treatment to stabilise lives and manage addiction.


  • Substance use treatment services should understand social and cultural backgrounds of service users, and be fully accessible.


  • Services should address emerging trends and changing patterns of availability, strength, packaging and purity of substances.


  • Commissioners should be supported to develop an experienced and competent workforce with the ability to ensure the development of treatment and recovery systems that are integrated with wider health and wellbeing provision locally.


  • Staff in mental health services should be trained so they are more able to support people with co-occurring conditions. Similarly, staff in substance use treatment services should have training in mental health and trauma informed approaches.
Download our position statement on drugs in full
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