Bid to tackle county's addiction problem

DRUG and alcohol experts are set to attend a high-level think-tank called in the hope of turning around Suffolk's deepening addiction problems, it emerged today.

DRUG and alcohol experts are set to attend a high-level think-tank called in the hope of turning around Suffolk's deepening addiction problems, it emerged today.

A new report shows nearly 3,400 people in Suffolk are problem drug users and up to 10,000 have harmful alcohol problems.

Now Suffolk County Council wants to better coordinate efforts to help more people kick their addictions.

A special summit, chaired by councillor John Field, who heads the council's public protection scrutiny committee, will investigate ways of improving Suffolk's response to the growing problems next Tuesday.

In a report due to be presented to the meeting, drugs experts estimate that 3,388 people in Suffolk are problematic drug users.

They say already this year drug treatment services have dealt with 183 young people.

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And when it comes to the link between alcohol and crime, the experts have produced evidence which links the number of offences with those who drink too much.

In fact, between April and December last year, 15 per cent of total crime in Suffolk - some 6,096 offences - was alcohol related.

In 45pc of the cases of violence against a person (3,878 offences) and in 24pc of sexual offences (115 cases) alcohol was a factor.

There were a further 2,900 violent crimes committed in public places which were related to alcohol misuse.

The report states: “The cost to the community in terms of criminal justice costs, costs to employers, the NHS and wider social costs of these two types of offence (drug and alcohol offences) to Suffolk in just nine months was £43,973,716 at 2003 prices.”

Mr Field said officers leading drug and alcohol services had recommended the investigation into the future of the county's strategy.

He said: “This is a very important issue that has to be tackled very level-headedly.

“Throwing money at it is not an option. It's a matter of re-focussing and making sure duplication is removed.

“This is vital to people's lives. These people do need help, they're not going to get out of the problems on their own.”

Last week The Evening Star revealed that one in seven people in Ipswich was harming themselves by drinking too much.

New figures showed that there were 15,359 regular drinkers across the town whose habit was considered “harmful” or “hazardous”.

Do you think enough is being done to tackle Suffolk's drug and alcohol problems? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN, or e-mail eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk.

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