SMMGP August 2019 newsletter

Medical cannabis in the UK 

We are delighted to offer the first in a series of FREE webinars on this topic:

Medical cannabis in the UK: an introduction
Tuesday 17.09.19 at 7 pm

The webinar will be chaired By Dr Stephen Willott and our main speaker is Dr Kishan Mahabir.  Dr Mahabir is an international expert and an engaging speaker. Register now and listen live to receive a CPD certificate. 

Made possible through an unrestricted educational grant from Althea.

Premium Membership Webinars

Image and performance enhancing drugs: Should we be concerned?

Tuesday 24th September at 10am

This webinar will discuss image and performance enhancing drugs (IPEDS) including prevalence, effects, risks and potential interventions.


Dr Jim McVeigh, Director of Public Health Institute, Liverpool John Moores University

To register, please click here (available to SMMGP premium members only). If you are an SMMGP premium member but do not currently have access please email [email protected].

Cannabis: Keeping up to date

Presenter: Ian Hamilton, Associate Professor in Mental Health and Addiction, University of York

This webinar covers:

• Different types of illicit cannabis and their potency
• Cannabis dependency: what is known and unknown

Now available to watch via our premium membership platform please click here. (available to SMMGP premium members only). If you are an SMMGP premium member but do not currently have access please email [email protected].

Free webinar (recorded) 

Long-acting buprenorphine in criminal justice settings  implications for services
This webinar is now available to watch “on demand”. 

Our expert speakers are: Dr Jake Hard, GP, Chair, RCGP Secure Environments Group,
Professor Adrian Dunlop, School of Medicine and Public Health, University of Newcastle, Australia and Professor Oscar D’Agnone, Consultant Psychiatrist, Addiction Specialist.
Topics include:

  • A background to buprenorphine prescribing in criminal justice settings 
  • Clinical experience from Australia regarding long-acting buprenorphine including its introduction in a prison setting 
  • Clinical experience from the UK including opportunities and challenges for services.

Clinical Update 

Special Edition Clinical Update - Espranor®

This clinical update focuses on Espranor® (bup-lyo), the lyophilized (rapid-disintegrating) buprenorphine tablet for opioid use disorder (OUD), produced by Ethypharm, which has been available since January 2017.  Click here to read.

Clinical Update August 2019

How many recovery attempts does it take to successfully resolve an alcohol or drug problem? Estimates and correlates from a national study of recovering U.S. adults. Kelly J. F., Greene M. C., Bergman B. G., White W. L. & Hoeppner B. B. (2019) Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research, 43(7): 1533-1544. DOI: 10.1111/acer.14067. 
Click here to read.

Are we overestimating the number of recovery attempts required to achieve stable recovery from alcohol and other drugs (AOD)?

This study presents the results of a cross-sectional survey of US adults (n=39, 809) who report resolving a significant AOD problem (n=2002). The authors estimated the mean number of serious recovery attempts before entering stable recovery to be 5.35. The median number of recovery attempts was 2. Black race, prior use of treatment and mutual help groups, and psychiatric comorbidity were associated with a higher number of attempts. The number of recovery attempts did not differ between primary substances.

The authors conclude that the average number of recovery attempts may be substantially lower than previously believed as outliers and extreme values influence the mean value. They suggest that the median number – 2 – be used in clinical and policy communications. The skewed distribution is indicative of the presence of subgroups requiring more attempts to resolve their AOD problem, and suggests that substance use disorders (SUDs) are spectrum disorders characterised by heterogeneous aetiological pathways, diverse clinical profiles, and highly variable courses. AOD services should therefore be flexible in tailoring the intensity of interventions to the specific needs of the individual.


The language we use to communicate with our patients is likely to elicit varying degrees of hope and motivation. Whilst there is ample evidence that SUDs are chronically relapsing disorders, and of course we must be open with patients about the nature of addiction, we risk demotivating patients by emphasising the higher number of recovery attempts needed by patients with higher severity SUDs. The results of this study support the argument that we should be using the median estimate of recovery attempts in clinical and policy communications.

Working in substance misuse services we often see more complex patients with comorbidity and more severe SUDs, so anecdotally at least it might appear that most patients go through many recovery attempts before achieving stability. However, for those of us who work in primary care, and non-specialist services, we may see many more patients with mild or moderate substance use disorders, who require lower-intensity treatment and fewer recovery attempts to achieve stability. It is important that all professionals working with patients with an AOD problem have an overview of the variable trajectories of SUDs, and are able to appropriately communicate this to patients.

The authors point out that a treatment system designed around the mean clinical profile would have the unintended consequences of over-treating those with lower severity SUDs and high recovery capital, and under-treating those with high problem severity and minimal recovery capital. If patients perceive treatment as overbearing they may drop out of treatment; conversely, if services are perceived as inadequate and not able to meet the individual needs of a patient, they may disengage with treatment. Both of these scenarios have the potential to feed into the revolving door of acute treatment. The authors state that these findings underscore that one size does not fit all and that highly individualised approaches to addressing AOD problems are required. Accurate assessment, including assessment of available recovery capital, is vital to ensure that treatment is tailored to the needs of the individual.

There are several limitations to this study. Importantly, the term “serious recovery attempt” is not clearly defined and was open to interpretation by survey respondents. The data is also based on self-report and retrospective recall so may be open to bias. Furthermore, resolution of an AOD problem is not clearly defined. Does resolution refer to complete abstinence from a problem substance, or simply a reduction in use so that use no longer causes subjective distress? Future research should aim to replicate these findings with clearer definitions of recovery and recovery attempt. 

To view the full clinical update by Tom Jones, please register to become a Premium Member.


Registration for our popular annual joint conference with RCGP 
Managing Drugs and Alcohol in Primary Care Conference is now open.
Date: 30 & 31 January 2020 in London.  

More information on other upcoming events on our website:

  • Alcohol Treatment – Reduced Demand or More Hidden Harm Monday 9th September in Sheffield.
  • Alcohol and Everything Else: When Alcohol Isn’t the Only Issue – Wednesday 18th September in Wrexham, Wales. 
  • Society for the Study of Addiction (SSA) conference Wednesday 6th November in Newcastle. 

If you wish to download a PDF version on this newsletter, please click here.