Submitted by The Christian Institute
1. The Christian Institute is a charity
which seeks to promote the Christian faith in the UK. We have
a particular concern for family life which is to an increasing
extent affected by the problems of drugs. We have well over 10,000
supporters, a significant number of whom work in health care and
2. This memorandum has been specifically
prepared for the inquiry being carried out by the Home Affairs
What constitutes existing drugs policy?
3. Drugs policy includes treatment, education
and the criminal law. We believe the Government's drugs policy
has been undermined by the use of harm reduction approaches in
"Harm reduction" with addicts
4. "Harm reduction" was invented
for use with addicts. In tandem with seeking to help the users
overcome their addiction, addicts are taught how to use drugs
5. This approach is now being seriously
questioned. The use of methadone, for example, as a substitute
for heroin appears to cause more problems than it solves.
"Harm reduction" amongst school children
6. Five years ago the harm reduction approach
spread from the treatment of drug addicts to general drugs education.
7. Whatever role harm reduction may have
with addicts, we are very concerned that today prevention approaches
have been almost completely abandoned in work with teenagers in
the context of education and youth groups.
8. The Government uses the language of prevention
in the area of drugs, but the agencies delivering the drugs strategy
generally do not agree. In the USA there has been a more consistent
approach which has been very successful.
9. It is ironic that prevention approaches
are now being successfully deployed once again in the UK to stop
young people taking up smoking.
10. Drugs professionals overwhelmingly support
taking a blanket "harm reduction" approach with young
people who are not users.
11. One academic study concluded that UK
drugs workers are "virtually united in rejecting abstention
as a policy". British Social Attitudes (BSA) used a scale
of one to five with one being the most liberal and five the most
restrictive. It looked at opinions on eight key issues. Whilst
the British public scored an average of 3.5, UK Drugs workers
scored an average of 2.0. Swedish drugs workers scored 3.8. BSA
concluded that, unlike the general public, UK drugs workers have
"a very liberal approach towards drugs".
12. Harm reduction has now become the dominant
approach to general drugs education amongst audiences who
are overwhelmingly not drug users. It has become so entrenched
that some drugs education resources for use with secondary and
even primary school children rely entirely on this approach.
13. The Introduction to The Primary School
Drugs Pack, produced by Healthwise, and recommended for use
by the Scottish Executive, says this: "Teachers sometimes
feel under a lot of pressure to teach from an 'anti-drug' perspective.
We suggest you resist this pressure and are clear about the full
range of legal and illegal drugs that are commonly used and the
fact that you, and the parents of the children you teach, are
probably drug users yourselves." This pack trivialises drug
use by likening coffee and aspirin to crack and heroin.
14. The secondary school equivalent, also
produced by Healthwise, is called Taking Drugs Seriously. It makes
similar statements: "This pack starts from the position that
drug use is a part of some young people's lives and will not be
prevented by education." In one lesson plan, children are
asked to role-play being a drug dealer and to rank drugs according
to which is the "best". There are tips on what to do
if arrested for drugs possession by the police. Pupils hear advice
that smoking heroin is better than injecting it, that LSD does
not cause brain damage and that crack cocaine, one of the most
addictive substances know to man, is not necessarily addictive.
The use of the criminal law
15. There are wide variations in the use
of cautioning for possession of cannabis.
16. For England and Wales, cautioning is
now the most common way of dealing with drug offenders.
This contributes to the belief that the law is not working when
in fact the law is not actually being applied.
The likely effect of decriminalisation on:
(a) the availability of and demand for drugs.
17. The supply of drugs would be greatly
increased if any of them were ever legalised. This in turn would
drive up demand. Young people who, despite peer pressure, are
currently put off buying drugs because of the stigma and/or the
prospect of prosecution, would no longer be deterred.
(b) drug-related deaths.
18. Such deaths are caused directly through
drug poisoning but also indirectly through drug users injuring
themselves or other people. There is already a problem with cannabis-related
deaths on the road. One government survey found almost as many
drivers were killed on the roads through cannabis as through alcohol.
If this is the case whilst cannabis is illegal, the problem would
undoubtedly get much worse if cannabis were ever legalised.
19. Given that the flashback effects of
cannabis can impair driving for up to 30 days there is no safe
way of allowing drivers to take cannabis.
20. If any drugs were ever decriminalised
drug pushers would simply set up "legitimate" businesses
and sell even more drugs in order to keep their profits up as
the price drops. A greater market for the remaining illegal drugs
would be created.
21. Since it is impossible for most addicts
to hold down a job, addicts will still steal money to buy legal
22. Drug users also commit crimes, including
violent crimes, whilst intoxicated on drugs. This will not be
changed by decriminalisation.
3 Gould A, Shaw A and Ahrendt D, Illegal Drugs: liberal
and restrictive attitudes, British Social Attitudes: The 13th
Report, SCPR, 1996, pp. 93 and 104. Back
Home Office Statistical Bulletin, Issue 25/96, Research and Statistics
Directorate, 28 November 1996, p 18, para 16. Back
Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions, Press
Notice 149/Transport, 27 June 1997. Back