Brown Urges Drug Strategy Rethink

Drugs education schemes should start at primary school as part of an overhaul of Britain’s drugs strategy, Gordon Brown is to say. And more role models are needed to raise awareness of drug use, which is still “unacceptably high”, he will say.

{mosimage}The chancellor will visit police in Birmingham before discussing gangs and drugs at a hustings event in Leicester. Mr Brown, who will succeed Tony Blair as PM at the end of June, will say drugs strategy must enter a new phase.

Although Mr Brown is the only candidate for the party leadership, he is taking part in hustings events alongside the six candidates for the post of deputy leader.

He has pledged to use the time before he becomes prime minister “listening and learning” to police, hospital staff and others across the country. On Wednesday, he will hold private meetings with police chiefs and staff in Birmingham, before discussing gangs and drugs at the hustings event in the evening. There has been a 16% decline in drug use since 1998, but levels remain unacceptably high, he will say.

The value of the illegal drugs market in the UK is around £5bn, the government says, while drugs-related crime in England and Wales is thought to cost more than £13bn.

Mr Brown will acknowledge some weakness in the government’s drugs strategy, due to be revised in 2008. He will advocate the use of more community role models and ensure better education about the dangers of drugs at primary as well as secondary school.

Community leaders have not been consulted enough and drugs education schemes have concentrated too much on secondary schools, according to the chancellor. And Mr Brown will pledge to review public advertising campaigns – like the Frank campaign – and the effectiveness of drug treatment orders, testing orders and community orders.

In April a report by 12 experts for the independent UK Drug Policy Commission found that the UK had an unusually severe drugs problem and the government’s strategy had had a limited impact.

It said there was little evidence education schemes worked and that the benefits of drugs treatment programmes were limited because some users relapsed and many went untreated.