UK Drug Policy Has ‘Limited Impact’

The UK has an unusually severe drugs problem and the government’s strategy has had a very limited impact on drug use, a new watchdog body has been told. The report for the independent UK Drug Policy Commission said more addicts were being treated.

{mosimage}But it added that the benefits were limited, and there was little evidence education schemes had had an impact. The Home Office insisted the strategy was working – with a 16% decline in drug use since 1998.

BBC home affairs correspondent Danny Shaw said the report was part of the debate about the government’s 10-year drug strategy, which is due to be updated in the next year.

Attempts to restrict the availability of drugs by arresting dealers and seizing supplies were failing and drugs prices on the street were falling, the report argued. And the benefits of drugs treatment programmes were limited because some users relapse and many go untreated, the report added.

The UK Drug Policy Commission (UKDPC) – chaired by Dame Ruth Runciman – has been set up to analyse drug policy in the country and is being funded with a three-year grant from a charity, the Esmee Fairbairn Foundation.

Twelve experts have been recruited from the drug treatment and medical research sectors, as well as some from policing, public policy research and the media. They include homeless charity Shelter’s chief executive Adam Sampson and head of the Medical Research Council professor Colin Blakemore.

The report will say that as well as having the highest level of drug use in Europe, Britain has the second highest number of drug-related deaths. But its authors, Professor Peter Reuter and Dr Alex Stevens, will say policies are succeeding in tackling certain illnesses and some aspects of criminal behaviour linked to drug use.

Dame Ruth Runciman said: “At the outset of our three-year work programme UKDPC is agreed upon one thing – we currently do not know enough about which elements of drug policy work, why they work and where they work well.”