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The RSA has re-ignited its work in the drugs sector again this year with a project that will, following a recommendation from the RSA Drugs Commission report, pilot user centred drugs services in the West Sussex area. Luckily, I have been given the opportunity to get involved and so have spent that last few weeks getting up to speed with the history of drugs policy, the discussions around personalised services and some of the issues surrounding drug use for the users, their families and communities.

The RSA has re-ignited its work in the drugs sector again this year with a project that will, following a recommendation from the RSA Drugs Commission report, pilot user centred drugs services in the West Sussex area. Luckily, I have been given the opportunity to get involved and so have spent that last few weeks getting up to speed with the history of drugs policy, the discussions around personalised services and some of the issues surrounding drug use for the users, their families and communities.

Unsurprisingly many of these issues are similar to those encountered by ex-prisoners so are somewhat familiar. On Thursday last week I attended a conference hosted by the London Drugs Policy Forum which focussed specifically on one of these issues; that of financial inclusion and poverty and its relationship to drug use and the successes of treatment and recovery.  But towards the end of the conference a delegate said something that seemed to separate ex-prisoners and drug users.

“Why are we talking in terms of the re-integration of drug users when they are part of our communities already, not separate?”

While prisoners are removed from their communities and imprisoned, drug users are part of our networks; they could be in your workplace, they could be part of your family, they could be your friends. Drug users are not just the chaotic, Trainspotting-type characters who prefer ‘to live in a blissful, directionless heroin-addled mess’, but individuals holding down jobs or looking after their families. Is it right to talk about re-integration for these individuals?  If not, then what?

The RSA drugs project will be working with drug users themselves, developing a user reference group to be part of the design and development of the drugs services and be trained up to conduct the research themselves. The projects work will be looking at questions like that of ‘re-integration’, as well as what users want and need in terms of treatment and test what works.  Follow the progress via the projects’ webpages or contact drugs@rsa.org.uk to subscribe to the mailing list.

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