Submitted by DrugScope
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 your inquiry.
There 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 laws should be modernised.
In 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.
One 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 to.
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 and D)
1.2. There should be a thorough reassessment
of the relative risks of all other schedule 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 still vary significantly. (see Annex
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 criminalised (see Annex F). There are other measures
(eg administrative and community penalties) that can be effectively
utilised as alternatives (see Annexes C and E).
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 F).
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).
2. THE DRUG
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 F)
2.2. Local Drug Action Teams should be placed
on a statutory footing and the relevant authorities should be
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 (eg allocated through SR2000) will
be diluted. (see Annex F).
3. REDUCING PREVALENCE
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 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 concerns.5
* 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 and training.
4.1. Harm reduction programmes to reduce health
and social harms amongst drug misusers need to be substantially
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
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 F)
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
result too often in energy and effort wasted in attempts to securing
funding. (see Annex F)
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 outcomes8. (See also Annex
6. REDUCING DRUG-RELATED
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
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 and F)
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.9
7. REDUCING THE
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
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
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. MONEY LAUNDERING
8.1. A national risk assessment should be
undertaken into 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 international impact.
1 Report of the expert group on the effects
of cannabis use
Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs
Home Office London 1982
Evaluating alternative cannabis regimes
Brit J of Psychiatry (2001) 178, 123-128
2 European Union Action Plan on Drugs for
The six objectives/targets in this EU plan
"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 treated addicts"
"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"
3 Duke K., MacGregor S.
Tackling Drugs Locally: the implementation of
drug action teams in England
Social Policy Research Centre, Middlesex University
4 Kenny, Cockburn
The Management of Drug-Related Incidents in
unpublished SCODA report 1998
Dr Sean Neill
Warwick University Institute of Education.
a survey for the National Union of Teachers
5 Normand, Lempert, O'Brien (eds)
Under the influencedrugs and the American
Academy of Science Washington DC 1994
6 Reducing Drug-Related DeathsA 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., Blattler 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
Amphetamine Abuse: An Initial Investigation.
Addiction: 2000, p.229-238. 20 refs.
Prescription Amphetamine To Amphetamine Users
A Hard Reduction Measure.
Int J Drug Policy: 1998, 9(5), p.339-344. 28
9 Drug Misuse and the Environment: a report
by the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs.
London HMSO 1998