Effectiveness bank home page. Opens new window Hot topics

Below is a list of all 43 hot topics – essays by Drug and Alcohol Findings explaining the background and evidence relating to topics which sometimes prompt heated debate. They are a popular way to get up to speed on the issues which matter in drug and alcohol policy and practice in Britain, and often too internationally. Sorted by the main topic addressed, the list shows in orange the type of entry, year the original document was published (or if one of our own documents, the year last updated), and the type of file you will download when you click on the title. In blue is the document’s title followed by a brief description.

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HOT TOPIC 2016 HTM file
Is it futile to match alcohol treatments to the patient?

Even if overall one type of therapy for problem drinking is no better than another, surely this is just because certain therapies worked best with certain patients? Expectations that ‘matching’ would lead to improved outcomes were dashed in what was intended to be the definitive test, but it would be premature entirely to dismiss the idea.

HOT TOPIC 2016 HTM file
Should we offer prizes for not using drugs?

Contingency management programmes reward patients for complying with treatment or not engaging in undesired substance use. It works, but often only temporarily – and perhaps at the cost of eroding the patient’s confidence and motivation.

HOT TOPIC 2018 HTM file
Acupuncture: potential value of a ‘theatrical placebo’

Asks whether acupuncture helps treat substance use problems and, if it does, whether this is ‘just’ a placebo effect. Is there something valuable here which has not yet been proven to work, or is trying to find proof a dead end?

HOT TOPIC 2016 HTM file
What is addiction treatment for?

The answers to the title question might seem obvious, but who drug addiction treatment is for and what it should aim to achieve are contested territory.

HOT TOPIC 2017 HTM file
Should dependent drinkers always try for abstinence?

For decades no issue has been hotter than whether dependent drinkers should always be advised to aim for abstinence rather than controlled drinking. We detail the fascinating background to this question faced on entering treatment by every drinker and their counsellor.

HOT TOPIC 2017 HTM file
The ‘explosion’ that never happened; crack and cocaine use in Britain

In 1989 a whirlwind of concern was stirred up by a US drug enforcement officer who foresaw a US-style “explosion” of violence associated with the ‘almost instantly addictive’ crack version of cocaine in Britain. That did not happen – but what did, where do those claims stand today, and what of cocaine powder, for decades seen as the ‘champagne set’s’ favourite drug?

HOT TOPIC 2017 HTM file
Cannabis is worth bothering with

Despite heroin, crack and overdose deaths at record levels, we examine the proposition that cannabis use is worth bothering with, including reports that stronger products are aggravating harms, prospects of recovery from problem use, and the emerging response to synthetic forms of cannabis like ‘spice’.

HOT TOPIC 2017 HTM file
Protecting the children

How to protect the children of problem substance users can hardly be a more emotive and – since a US-inspired project came to Britain offering to pay drug users to be sterilised – contentious issue. Despite the issue’s profile, truly informative studies are few.

HOT TOPIC 2017 HTM file
Focus on the families

Both as a treatment resource for the patient and a group needing support in their own right, a UK report described families affected by substance use as the “forgotten” carers. Here we turn the focus on the “unheard and unseen victims when a loved one uses drugs or alcohol”.

HOT TOPIC 2016 HTM file
Can testing and sanctions displace addiction treatment?

Gaining influential support is the proposition that for problem substance users over whom leverage can be exerted, we can largely do away with treatment and just test for substance use and punish infringements. Is this really the way forward?


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