Submitted by the National Drug Prevention
The Alliance (NDPA) is a network of professional
and lay groups and individuals who seek to improve the quality
and application of primary prevention, set appropriately within
the context of the whole range of drug services and wider social
policy. Supporters between them cover the full range of professional
This submission has been purpose-written for
the Select Committee. References and other substantiation will
be supplied on demand. We are happy to attend to give oral evidence.
The core value of the UK drug strategy is that
drug misuse has a negative effect on the user, on those around
him/her, and on society at large; it is therefore to be discouraged,
whilst those who have become involved are encouraged and helped,
with least harm, to cease. "Drug misuse" may conveniently
be defined as:
"Any use of an illegal substance, or the
inappropriate use of any legal substance, for psychoactive effect."
NDPA EVIDENCE IN
1. Does existing drugs policy work?
1.1 Yes, as an adequate definition of goals
and the means to achieve them. It suffers in the delivery, both
by lack of commitment in some aspects as well as by assault from
those who prefer a more libertarian approach. It seeks to engage
all of the relevant community and government elements around a
common purpose, but the delivery of it is ceded to local choice.
Sectional interests which already have the ear of central/local
government, or the media, or have more substantial assets, are
in a better position to redouble their disproportionate influence
and thus resourcing. Consequently those sectors without these
advantages atrophy furtherthis particular disbenefits Strategy
Key Goals one and twoto discourage use, and to enhance
2. Effect of decriminalisation on (a) availability
of and demand for drugs?
2.1 It would increase it and encourage it
to further increase, as evidence from other countries shows. Increased
use has always followed law relaxation, provoking higher supply,
thence lower cost thus higher use. This is particularly true for
young people; some statistics have suggested that increase with
older age groups may be less pronounced, but it is youth use which
drives tomorrow's marketand incidentally it is the adolescent
who suffers more physiological damage for any given drug.
3. Effect on (b) drug-related deaths?
3.1 These would also increase, under two
headings: deaths due to drug chemistry, and circumstantial deaths.
Drug chemistry may include toxicity leading directly to death,
or biochemical effects of one drug loosening inhibitions against
the use of another drug. Circumstantial deaths may include accidents
to the personat work or leisurewhile uninhibited,
or intoxicated, as well as various transport-related events (it
is important to note that circumstantial deaths may occur to people
other than the user).
3.2 Progression in greater numbers to the
so-called harder drugs will produce more deaths. Because the progression
or `Gateway' theory is a key indictment of cannabis, vigorous
attempts are made to nullify it. The evidence speaks for itself,
and the paradigm can be reduced to one simple statement:
Anyone who uses any substance for psychoactive
effect is more likely to use another than is a non-user.
3.3 The only reason that cannabis features
so often is that it is by far the most-used illegal drug in our
culture. Ecstasy is now proving to be the gateway drug of choice
for another section of our society.
4. Effect on (c) crime?
4.1 Drug-related crime is too often monitored
in a narrow and partial sense; acquisitive crime to pay for drug
purchase is certainly part of the equation, but in our experience
another large portion comes from disinhibition as well as alteration
in mental attitudebecoming less socially conscious, more
self-oriented, seeking rapid gratification. It follows that prevalence
of crime is medicated by prevalence of drug misuse. In addition,
certain drugs seems to predispose violent behaviour, exacerbating
the above effect. Contrary to myth and dogma, research shows that
5. Is decriminalisation desirable and, if
not, what are the practical alternatives?
5.1 It is not in any way desirable. Effects
of misuse are already apparent in primary schools from foetal
effects leading to disruptive behaviour, ADHD, aggressive outbursts
etc; in the developmental years by academic failure; in the office,
factory and worksite by accidents and reduced productivity; in
our sports arenas by cheating, on our streets by crime andnot
leastin the home by broken relationships, stress and illness.
Some estimate the cost to society as £1.7 billion per year
for illegal drugs, plus as much again for alcohol misuseand
these figures do not include social effects. Specialists over
generations have defined total health as comprising physical,
mental, intellectual, social, emotional, spiritual and environmental
aspectsany assessment of the harm from drugs must take
account of all these aspects, assessment based solely on physiological
impact is woefully inadequate. Harm is not just to the user; not
just physical, and not just in the extreme state which is addiction.
5.2 The alternative to law relaxation is
to do the job properly. Knowing the Strategy's core value (see
`Background' above), gain an understanding of what real prevention
is, where its benefits lie, then set about delivering it. Any
behaviour, including drug misuse, is mediated by the culture of
society in which it takes place. Society overall can be seen as
a nest of cultures with a complex relationship between themin
other words, a social ecology. It is foolish to tinker with parts
of this ecologysuch as drug lawsit must be viewed
and treated as a whole. At the Drug Strategy level, the following
more and better prevention, community
education that supports prevention
a cautioning/warning system automatically
linked to education and training
clear laws which the majority of
adults understand and endorse
a constructive, rehabilitative justice
system (drug courts, restorative justice, RAPT and similar, DTTOs)
strengthened workplace initiatives
strengthened sports prevention (less
harm reduction confined to intervention
and treatmentexclude from education
more and better treatment, abstinence-oriented,
minimise maintenance-prescribing; reintroduce sanity into `Human
Rights' constraints on rehabs
more training and control over use
review and strengthen drug information
on an international evidence base
assist the voluntary sector and break
monopolies in services
6. Effectiveness of ten-year strategy?
6.1 Effectiveness is being undercut by ideology
and `turf' disputes. Sort this and you will sort most of it. Adequate
top-down compliance monitoring and management is a critical omissionrectify
this; DATs/DRGs should comply with, not compete with the Strategy.
7. Revised role of UKADC?
7.1 A waste of potential. The post should
be reinstated and strengthened (given teeth)the most obvious
powers would be influence over funding. (See ONDCP, USA).
8. OAB: other issues needing attention
8.1 Benzodiazepine abuse, over-the-counters,
psychology/psychiatry over-reliance on drug chemicals, Ritalin
and children, abuse of other pharmaceuticals.
8.2 Strategies for legal and illegal drugs
should link (but not merge).