law | The Drug Strategy | Reducing
prevalence of drug use | Improving the health
of drug users | Treating drug misusers
| Reducing drug related crime | Reducing
the availability of drugs | Money laundering
In submitting the following recommendations, DrugScope*
is basing its conclusions on the international research evidence
base where available and on the effectiveness of drug policy and
drug interventions. This evidence is summarised in attached appendices
independently commissioned for the purposes of this memorandum and
based on our experience gained as a leading drug charity for more
than 30 years. Additionally we attach key findings from a survey
of our members carried out specially for the purposes of informing
is much to commend in the current drug strategy and the various
actions underway nationally and locally. In this memorandum we limit
our comments to those areas where policy and the strategy should
be strengthened and in particular, where the law should be modernised.
an ideal world, we would hope that people, especially the young,
would not take illegal drugs. We are however a long way from that
position and our immediate concern is working to reduce the damage
and harm that drugs can bring.
of the problems with the current position is that there is a misalignment
in the relative harms of certain drugs and their classification.
This raises the spectre of young people downplaying the potential
risks and, consequently, increasing the dangers they are exposed
1.1. Cannabis (and cannabinol) should be
re-scheduled as a Class C drug.
While cannabis is not a harm free drug, a contemporary risk
assessment would suggest it is wrongly scheduled. Such a change
is unlikely to have a disproportionate effect on crime or on health.(1)
(See Annexes B, C
1.2. There should be a thorough reassessment
of the relative risks of all other scheduled drugs with a view to
re-scheduling some in other classes. While the long term
health risks of some drugs are still uncertain it is the view of
drug misuse professionals that the risks of each drug vary significantly.
(see Annex F)
1.3. Criminal procedures should
no longer be initiated for the possession of small amounts of any
scheduled drug nor for the cultivation of small amounts of cannabis.
We understand our international obligations require the UK
to prohibit specified drug use and punish and criminalise possession
(and cultivation) but there is considerable room for manoeuvre as
to the application of actions both within and outside the criminal
law. (see Annex E) In particular
there is no evidence that the availability of imprisonment deters
simple possession or that it is effective longer term in stopping
drug use. With renewed concern and provisions to ensure those who
are drug dependent get access to treatment, it is appropriate that
those with problems are not unduly criminalized (see Annex
F). There are other measures (e.g. administrative and community
penalties) that can be effectively utilised as alternatives (see
Annexes C and
1.4. Section 8 of the Misuse of
Drugs Act should be reviewed and amended as appropriate to ensure
that services and individuals helping vulnerable people and drug
users do not fall within its purview. There is
considerable disquiet that the recent hasty amendment to the Misuse
of Drugs Act 1971 was ill conceived and potentially damaging to
those working with at-risk groups (see Annex
1.5. The effectiveness and impact
of Drug Abstinence Orders should be rigorously evaluated.
It is our view that the requirement for someone with a potential
drug problem to remain drug free without access to treatment is
irresponsible. DTTOs and other sanctions offer adequate provision
for drug dependent and other drug using offenders (see Annexes
A and F).
The Drug Strategy
2.1. Revised performance targets
should be adopted for the national strategy. These should reflect
those set out in the current European Action Plan on Drugs. There
is currently such poor information available that performance measurement
is virtually meaningless in some cases and the strategy targets
do not align with those of our European colleagues. More realistic
and achievable targets are needed. (2) (see Annex
2.2. Local Drug Action Teams should be
placed on a statutory footing and the relevant authorities should
be a required to draw up appropriate plans for addressing drug misuse.
Ensuring commitment amongst government departments and local public
services proves difficult against competing priorities.(3) (and
see Annex F)
2.3. The Government should speedily introduce
an alcohol strategy and back this up with appropriate resourcing.
There is a risk that because many DATs and bodies like
the National Treatment Agency embrace alcohol, resources devoted
to addressing drug use (e.g. allocated through SR2000) will be diluted
(see Annex F).
Reducing prevalence of drug use
3.1. All statutory national and
local public service plans that touch on young people's lives should
include reference and objectives for addressing drug use. Drug
use potentially touches every facet of a young-person's life and
it is therefore essential that there is a cross cutting effort so
that every relevant public service responds in an appropriate way
(see Annex F).
3.2. There should be substantially
more effort put into helping vulnerable and at-risk children/ young
people, especially those looked- after and those excluded (or at
risk of exclusion) from the education system. There is
still some evidence that schools use exclusion for "minor"
drug offences as a first response and that looked- after children
remain particularly vulnerable to drug misuse. (4).
3.3. There should be greater encouragement
given to the adoption of supportive and effective workplace policies.
Supportive programmes recognise the investment made in
staff and their retention. Conversely, the US National Research
Council has challenged the effectiveness of work-place drug testing
in reducing drug use and the adoption of pre-employment recruitment
and employee surveillance raises important ethical and social exclusion
Improving the health of drug users
4.1. Harm reduction programmes to reduce
health and social harms amongst drug misusers need to be substantially
expanded. The UK has relatively high levels of injecting
drug using, overdoses and levels of blood borne infections amongst
drug users. (6) (See also Annex F)
5. Treating drug misusers
5.1. There should be significant new investment
and effort to make drug treatment services more responsive and sensitive
to local needs. Drug use impacts on different communities
in different ways. Treatment services need to be more culturally
and gender sensitive to ensure ease of access. There also need to
be new services targeted at particular types of users, such as those
using stimulants. There is a universally recognised shortfall in
the availability and breadth of such services (see Annex
5.2. Significant new resources, over and
above those earmarked for the new National Treatment Agency, should
be directed towards raising the quality and effectiveness of treatment
services especially through enhanced training provision.
Recent unpublished evidence from DrugScope suggests that local DATs,
services commissioners and drug treatment services face considerable
hurdles in striving to improve the quality of the services they
provide. (7) (See also Annex F)
5.3. The funding of treatment services
especially those provided through the voluntary sector should be
put on a more substantial financial footing. The vagaries
of funding these essential services results too often in energy
and effort wasted in attempts to securing funding (see Annex
5.4. There should be a strategic examination
of the potential for extending the prescribing of certain injectable
drugs, including heroin. Many people fail to come off
heroin and still use it even when prescribed substitutes. In Germany
and in Switzerland there have been evaluated programmes that appear
to offer some health improvement and crime reduction outcomes.(8)
(See also Annex F)
Reducing drug related crime
6.1. The gradual emergence of a two-tier
treatment service (through the criminal justice system and health/social
services) should not be allowed to develop. Greater support
needs to be given to all treatment services to help them develop
integrated health improvement, social re-integration and crime reduction
objectives (see Annexes A and F).
6.2. Greater priority needs to be afforded
to the social re-integration of drug users through more specialist
and mainstream housing provision. While there are welcome
new employment and training initiatives coming on stream, the availability
of stable accommodation is one of the key factors in successful
re-integration. Current provision for the growing numbers in and
leaving treatment is not sufficient (see Annexes A
6.3. Efforts to tackle drug use
need fuller integration with those designed to reduce social exclusion
and promote neighbourhood renewal. It is no coincidence
that drug misuse and crime flourishes in areas of high social deprivation
and amongst those excluded from the opportunities afforded to others.
Reducing the availability of drugs
7.1. The focus on intercepting Class A
drugs should be maintained and its consequences fully evaluated.
We support efforts that prioritise the drugs of most harm, although
the full impact of this policy needs to be gauged.
7.2. The proposed Asset Recovery Agency
should be brought into operation at the earliest opportunity. Proceeds
of drug related crime should not be available to serious and organised
criminals for purposes of re-investment in other criminal activities
(see Annex F).
7.3. More independent research should be
carried out into drug trafficking and particularly the effectiveness
of law enforcement interventions. Despite recent advances
in methods and additional resources there is no independent analysis
as to the overall effectiveness of such actions at the high, medium
and low levels of drug markets. There may also be a case for the
National Audit Office to examine this.
7.4. In due course, the Home Affairs
and Foreign Affairs Committees should carry out a joint inquiry
into the effectiveness of international efforts to control drug
production. There is growing disquiet in many quarters
as to the long term economic, social, environmental and political
consequences of international drug control policy and trafficking
upon developing nations.
8.1. A national risk assessment
should be undertaken in to the vulnerability of selected sectors
of the UK economy prone to money laundering. Drugs money
laundering through the UK risks the integrity and reputation of
professions and financial institutions.
At the heart of how we respond to drugs lie our drug laws and underpinning
these are the international drug conventions. While we see little
immediate prospect of change we support calls for a review of these
in the light of contemporary knowledge about their domestic and
1. Report of the expert group on the effects of cannabis use
Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs
Home Office London 1982
and Reuter, MacCoun
2. Evaluating alternative cannabis regimes
Brit J of Psychiatry (2001) 178, 123-128
European Union Action Plan on Drugs for 2000-2004.
The six objectives/targets in this EU plan are:
· "to reduce significantly over five years the prevalence
of drug use, as well as new recruitment to it, particularly among
young people under 18 years of age"
· "to reduce substantially over five years the incidence
of drug related health damage(HIV,hepatitis,TBC, etc) and the number
of drug related deaths"
· "to increase substantially the number of successfully
· " to reduce substantially over five years the availability
of illicit drugs"
· " to reduce substantially over five years the number
of drug related crimes"
· " to reduce substantially over five years money-laundering
and illicit trafficking of precursors"
Duke K., MacGregor S.
Tackling Drugs Locally: the implementation of drug action teams
Social Policy Research Centre, Middlesex University 1997
4. Kenny, Cockburn
The Management of Drug Related Incidents in Schools
unpublished SCODA report 1998
and Dr Sean Neill
Warwick University Institute of Education.
a survey for the National Union of Teachers
5. Normand, Lempert, O'Brien (eds)
Under the influence - drugs and the American work force
Academy of Science Washington DC 1994
6. Reducing Drug Related Deaths - A report by the Advisory Council
on the Misuse of Drugs
London The Stationery Office 2000
7. Unpublished report of consultancy support to DATs on implementing
Quality Standards for Drug Treatment Services
8. Uchtenhagen A., Dobler-Mikola A., Steffen T., Gutzwiller F.,
R., Pfeifer S. eds.
Prescription Of Narcotics For Heroin Addicts: Main Results Of The
Swiss National Cohort Study.
Basel, etc.: Karger, 1999.
Dexamphetamine Substitution In The Treatment Of
Amphetamine Abuse: An Initial Investigation.
Addiction: 2000, p.229-238. 20 refs.
Prescribing Amphetamine To Amphetamine Users As
A Harm Reduction Measure.
Int J Drug Policy: 1998, 9(5), p.339-344. 28 refs.
Drug Misuse and the Environment : a report by the Advisory Council
on the Misuse of
London HMSO 1998
DrugScope is one of the UK's
leading centres of expertise on drugs. Our aim is to inform policy
development and reduce drug-related risk. We provide quality drug
information, promote effective responses to drug taking, undertake
research at local, national and international levels, advise on
policy-making, encourage informed debate and provide a voice for
our member organisations on the ground. DrugScope's 900 member bodies
are drawn from health services, voluntary bodies, criminal justice
agencies, researchers, academics and those involved in education