Submitted by Quaker Action on Alcohol
and Drugs (QAAD)
Quaker Action on Alcohol and Drugs (QAAD) is
a listed group of the Religious Society of Friends and an independent
national charity concerned with the use and misuse of legal and
illegal drugs. We offer some prevention and information services
regarding substance use within the Society of Friends, and some
grant aid outside it. Trustees give their time to QAAD freely,
and bring voluntary and statutory experience from settings that
include prevention, treatment, the medical profession, and criminal
1. QAAD welcomes this inquiry and compiled
this document specifically for it. We commend the current policy
initiatives that tackle the causes of problem drug use by addressing
poverty and disadvantage.
2. THE LAW
2.1 QAAD believes that existing drug policy
does not reflect current information about the harms caused by
drugs available in our society. Specifically:
Alcohol and nicotine are not evaluated
in the same framework of harm as that applied to illicit drugs,
whilst social policies and regulatory measures that could reduce
problem use (price, availability and advertising controls) are
inconsistently or insufficiently applied.
The existing classification of cannabis
is not working legally or socially.
These anomalies weaken the authority
and effectiveness of current drug policies, particularly in the
eyes of young people.
2.2 We accept that change must begin with
realism from the existing legal and social position. However,
longer-term progress will be most effectively achieved by the
development of a rational, integrated strategy that includes all
drugs, legal, illegal and prescribed. An evidence-based framework
related to the various harms of drugs should be applied both to
social policy and to health/education messages in a consistent
and mutually reinforcing way.
2.3 A necessary step to achieve this is
the speedy delivery of the long-awaited alcohol strategy. As regards
illicit drugs, we endorse the recommendations regarding classification
and implementation made by the Police Foundation Report of March
2000, and we also support its general reasoning. We welcome experimental
police initiatives for dealing with cannabis.
2.4 The PFI acknowledged, "there is
a risk that ...changes...may lead to the use of cannabis by more
people..." We believe that the risk must be related to the
"prevention paradox"the phenomenon noted by researchers,
that levels of problem use rise when general consumption increases.
We recommend that any changes involving relaxation are accompanied
by active health/education strategies, and that changes in use
and problem use is stringently researched.
2.5 We echo concerns that to leave the supply
chain in illicit hands makes market separation of cannabis from
more harmful drugs harder to achieve. We do not advocate further
changes than those proposed by the PFI report at this stage. However,
if further decriminalisation is considered, we recommend that
the concept of "unstimulated demand", as embodied in
the 1968 Betting and Gaming Act, be examined as a paradigm. This
principle provides a framework for controlling expansion, and
for limiting the commercial pressures that undermine health objectives.
It can usefully be applied to those drugs that are already legal.
2.6 We recommend that a Royal Commission
be convened to examine the complex questions involved in models
of decriminalisation, and the broader issues of the status and
regulation of all drugs. We also recommend closer co-operation
with other European countries where changes to drug laws are occurring.
2.7 We have particular concern that attempts
to curtail the production of heroin and cocaine have resulted
in policies that involve force, coercion, or the indiscriminate
use of toxic chemicals in countries already disadvantaged by poverty.
The market for illicit drugs and tobacco is caused mainly through
the power of western countries over trade, and through the nature
of our culture. The developing world benefits least and suffers
the harshest consequences. We recommend a "joined-up"
foreign and domestic policy based on just measures more likely
to reduce drug production in the long-term. Fair trading agreements
and non-exploitative prices for the food products of developing
countries should be the basis for progress. We are encouraged
that the Prime Minister spoke to this effect at the Labour Party
conference: of "encouraging investment... and access to our
markets so that we practise the free trade we are so fond of preaching."
We look forward to practical initiatives.
3. CRIME, INTERVENTION
3.1 QAAD welcomes the increased availability
of treatment for offenders and the harm-reduction benefits. We
Drug Treatment and Testing Orders
have been implemented variably according to local conditions.
This has some positive effects, but it also tends to perpetuate
pre-existing variations in quality and availability of treatment.
Guidelines from the pilot DTTO research
recommended a flexible attitude to some continuation in drug use,
since reduction results in harm-minimisation benefits. However,
drug use may continue throughout the Order, and informal information
suggests DTTOs can end whilst treatment is still necessary. Research
demonstrates that abstinence from heroin via methadone-based treatment
is neither usual nor quick. These difficult findings have been
insufficiently incorporated into planning or policy expectation.
(They provide an argument for greater availability of residential
provision, though this will not be a total solution).
Within the target DTTO population,
there is a group of high-risk, high-needs offenders, with multiple
social problems: some have dual diagnosis. Research indicates
that these people benefit most from intensive and prolonged treatment,
and support for community reintegration. However, specialist facilities
are rare, residential provision is insufficient, as is good-quality
supported housing. Neither mainstream provision nor DTTOs reliably
meet the specific needs of this group.
Proposed drug testing of arrestees
raise concerns about civil liberties and equality, particularly
with regard to race. There is also a risk that the "hard-to-treat",
group of offenders (identified by the National Treatment Outcome
Results Survey and probably including the group just delineated)
will enter a revolving door of arrest, coerced testing/treatment,
3.2 We support measures for the treatment
of offenders, but we have some concern that the crime agenda is
having too strong an impact in terms of policy and resources.
Where services are stretched, this is an acute issue.
3.3 QAAD fully acknowledges that national
drug policy must address the crime and public health risks that
can result from drug use. However, the health and well-being of
drug usersrather than simply the problems their behaviour
causes to othersshould also be a prime focus. As Quakers,
we are concerned with the welfare of every person. Working from
this value is our principle, but it also has benefits for outcomes:
research demonstrates that empathic and responsive services are