Professor Rob Poole and John Bailey (Centre for Mental Health and Society and School of Social Sciences, Bangor University) delivered their seminar: Alcohol and Opioids: Shifting the Blame.

Recent developments in UK alcohol policy have seen the Coalition Government backing away from initiatives aimed at influencing consumption through pricing and a return to a reliance on a strategy of promoting responsible drinking. This is a move away from a policy with proven effectiveness and back to one proven to have little or no effect on population levels of consumption. One of the major long-term factors in this policy direction is the influence of the alcohol industry on policy formulation, who use this position to promote deregulation and to oppose measures aimed at reducing consumption. At the same time, the last twenty years has seen a rapid growth in the use of prescription opioid drugs for the relief of pain. Among the reasons for this growth is the successful use of these drugs in palliative care leading to the view that they could be used equally successfully to treat other sources of pain. However, these are powerful drugs which frequently have severe side effects resulting in growing numbers of chronic pain sufferers, who experience difficulties resulting from their
medication use whilst gaining little benefit in terms of pain relief.

There are striking parallels between the responses of those who manufacture and distribute alcohol and those who manufacture opioid drugs or are responsible for their distribution to circumstances arising from the over-use of their products. One such is to seek to shift the locus of the problem from the product to the user with insistent calls for user responsibility and appeal to concepts of substance misuse. Another is the promotion of claims of health
benefits despite the lack of convincing evidence for them.

The School of Social Sciences, at Bangor University, Research Seminars included presentations from staff and research students within the School of Social Sciences, other research centres within the University, and visiting speakers.