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Professor Dame Carol Black - From Harm to Hope

Professor Dame Carol Black - From Harm to Hope

We were delighted to welcome Professor Dame Carol Black to the Senior School to give a thought-provoking and important talk entitled From Harm to Hope which explored her independent government review of drugs.

Dame Carol, formally the Principal of Newnham College, was appointed Independent Government Advisor in February 2019 by the then Home Secretary Sajid Javid to lead a major review into the UK's drug strategy and its funding for the future. Her review builds on existing strategies to combat drugs, the serious violence and organised crime and the harm associated with drug marketing and drug taking.

Starting with 'harm', guests learned that the long-awaited report paints a grim picture of drug strategy, addiction policy, research and treatment in the UK today and particularly in higher education establishments.

The first of the two-part review focused on the challenges posed by drug supply and demand including the ways in which drugs fuel serious violence. It made no recommendations but presented the current situation which looked far from promising. It described underfunded treatment services, increased drug use, and increased harms from drug use.

Turning to 'hope', Dame Carol discussed the second part of the review which focuses on treatment, recovery and prevention of drug misuse for adults and young people. The aim of the report is to make sure that vulnerable people with substance misuse problems get the support they need to recover and turn their lives around, in the community.

Dame Carol said:

"My aim is to bring hope and real change to the many individuals, families and communities whose lives are blighted by drug addiction and by the criminals who exploit it."

In her role as Independent Advisor on the misuse of drugs, she will be doing all she can to support this.

Dame Carol also spoke more generally about her life, calling it a "shaky start". Describing herself as a working-class student, who was poor at games and lacking in self-confidence, students were inspired to learn that she became Head Girl at her grammar school. A change from studying History to taking a medical degree, with VSO in the Western Pacific in between (and many other remarkable achievements along the way), lead to her "light-bulb moment" - realising that the determinants of health are largely social.

Students and parents alike were energised by her presentation, and a lively Q&A session followed.

Learn more about the importance of happiness and wellbeing at St Mary's School