DrugScope responded today to the publication of the Home Affairs Select Committee (HASC) inquiry report on the cocaine trade. In June 2009, DrugScope’s Chief Executive, Martin Barnes, and Director of Communications and Information, Harry Shapiro, were invited to give oral evidence to the HASC inquiry, and the charity also submitted written evidence to the Committee.
In response to the publication of the Committee’s report, Martin Barnes, Chief Executive of DrugScope, said:
“The Committee is right to highlight concern about cocaine use and its harms and we welcome its thorough and wide-ranging report. Since the Committee began its inquiry there has been evidence of a rise in cocaine’s use – the latest British Crime Survey shows a 25 per cent increase in the number of 16-24 years olds who used the drug in the previous 12 months. While only a small minority of the population use cocaine, the harms associated with the drug are significant and given current trends, the incidence of harm is likely to increase.
“Although cocaine retains some of its image as a drug for the rich and famous, this has changed with the fall in price, purity and increased availability. There is concern that young people in particular underestimate the risks and harms associated with cocaine, not least when it is combined with alcohol. The evidence on cocaine dependency, physical and mental health problems and related fatalities underlines the need for clear and consistent public health messages.”
“The committee is right to say that there needs to be a balance in tackling both supply and demand – experience shows that enforcement, particularly once the drug has reached the UK, is limited in impact and sustainability. DrugScope remains to be persuaded of the case for appointing an independent drugs adviser as recommended, but endorse the need for better cross departmental co-ordination and integration in implementing the drug strategy.
“The committee acknowledges the importance of the treatment system and the significant improvements in delivery over recent years, but calls for more investment in residential rehab provision. It is important that the treatment system provides a range of treatment options, but there is no silver bullet – interventions should be tailored to the needs of the service user; evidence shows that the vast majority will benefit from high quality treatment in the community.
“The adult treatment system is primarily geared to heroin and crack cocaine - we support the call for a broader definition of ‘problem drug use’ and the need to better respond to cocaine problems, but would also extend this to other drugs, such as ketamine and the so-called ‘legal highs’. Recent figures from the National Treatment Agency show that a significant proportion of problem cocaine users in treatment are in employment, challenging the more traditional picture of a ‘problem drug user’.”
DrugScope also notes that the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD) has announced this week that it will be conducting an inquiry into cocaine use and its harms, a welcome development.