Home Affairs Committee - Drugs: Breaking the CycleWritten evidence submitted by Europe Against Drugs (DP121)

About Europe Against Drugs

Europe against Drugs (EURAD) is a European non-profit drug policy Foundation that advocates a prevention and recovery oriented drug policy at national and international level. EURAD is a registered foundation based in the Netherlands, with an office in Brussels. We have 50 affiliate organisations from across Europe and beyond.1

EURAD attends the European Civil Society Forum on Drugs, alongside partners in the UK and we are members of the Council of Europe’s Conference of International NGO’s and the Vienna NGO Committee.

The extent to which the Government’s 2010 Drug Strategy is a “fiscally” responsible policy with strategies grounded in science, health, security and human rights

1. In relation to fiscally responsible policies, labelled public expenditure on drugs in the United Kingdom is estimated to be around €1.5 billion (£1.3 billion) per annum. This is in comparison to the estimated economic and social costs of Class A drug use in England and Wales combined, which are estimated to have been around €22.2 billion (£15.4 billion) in 2003–04 and estimated €5.1 billion (£3.5 billion) in Scotland for the year 2006 (EMCDDA, 2011).2

2. In relation to science and research, EURAD would like to highlight research which has been published since the last Drug Strategy in 2010. All of the below sources of information were contained within the most recent UK National Report to the European Monitoring Centre on Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA, 2011).

(a)In England and Wales, prevalence of last year use of drugs was fairly stable at around 12% from 1996 to 2003–04, decreased to about 10% in 2007–08 and has continued to decrease since. In 2009–10 for adults aged 16 to 59 years old in England and Wales, reported last year drug use was at the lowest level (8.6%) since the British Crime Survey first asked questions on drug use in 1996.

(b)For the 16–59 year old age group, in 2009–10, 2.6% of females used any drug in the last month however 7.3% of men used a drug in the last month, showing the need for the UK to specifically target men in relation to prevention and treatment interventions.

(c)In England, for which the longest time series are available, drug use has fallen since 2001 overall, and among both boys and girls.

(d)In 2010, Hoare & Moon found that the characteristics which were most likely to determine drug use were age (those aged 16–19 most affected), gender (men more affected), frequency of alcohol consumption and marital status (married adults were statistically less likely to have used drugs in the last year). Other factors which played a role were found to be having a long-term illness, frequency of nightclub and pub visits and housing tenure. EURAD encourages the UK government to build these factors into their drugs strategy.

(e)In terms of the school and youth population, unemployment (Princes Trust, 20103) and parental attitudes towards alcohol and drug use (Miller et al, 20104) have been seen to play a role in drug use

The independence and quality of expert advice which is being given to the government

3. EURAD is concerned by the reference to the Global Commission on Drug Policy in the Home Affairs Committee’s public call for evidence into this inquiry. The report published by the Global Commission on Drug Policy group in 2011,5 is clear in its call to “encourage experimentation by governments with models of legal regulation”, particularly in relation to cannabis. EURAD members do not support this policy objective.

The extent to which public health considerations should play a leading role in developing drugs policy

4. Public health should be seen as one stream of a fully comprehensive drug policy, which should include comprehensive prevention programmes in order to reduce drug use uptake.

The relationship between drug and alcohol abuse

Polydrug use, including the combination of illicit drugs with alcohol, and sometimes, medicines and non-controlled substances, has become the dominant pattern of drug use in Europe (EMCDDA, 20116). As frequency of alcohol use is recognised as a characteristic of young people who use illicit drugs (See 2.d), therefore drug and alcohol strategies should not be seen in isolation of one another.

The comparative harm and cost of legal and illegal drugs

EURAD believes that the widespread harm caused by substances such as alcohol or tobacco should not be used as a reason to legalise potentially other dangerous substances.

The availability of legal highs and the challenges associated with adapting the legal framework to deal with new substances

EURAD would like to direct the Home Affairs Committee to the work carried out by the EMCDDA on new psychoactive substances.7 EMCDDA have also carried out analyses of the online presence of “legal high shops” and found the UK to have a surge of these types of shops in 2011, compared to 2010.8

January 2012

1 More information is available on EURAD from www.eurad.net

2 EMCDDA (2011) 2010 National Report to the EMCDDA by the Reitox Focal Point. United Kingdom. Accessed and available for download at: http://www.emcdda.europa.eu/html.cfm/index142583EN.html

3 Princes Trust (2010) in: EMCDDA (2011) 2010 National Report to the EMCDDA by the Reitox Focal Point. United Kingdom. Accessed and available for download at:
http://www.emcdda.europa.eu/html.cfm/index142583EN.html

4 Miller et al (2010) in: EMCDDA (2011) 2010 National Report to the EMCDDA by the Reitox Focal Point. United Kingdom. Accessed and available for download at:
http://www.emcdda.europa.eu/html.cfm/index142583EN.html

5 Global Commission on Drug Policy (2011). Global Commission on Drug Policy Report. Accessed at:
http://www.globalcommissionondrugs.org/Report

6 EMCDDA (2011). 2011 Annual report on the state of the drugs problem in Europe. Accessed at:
http://www.emcdda.europa.eu/publications/annual-report/2011

7 A range of information can be gathered from: http://www.emcdda.europa.eu/activities/action-on-new-drugs

8 Information can be found at: http://www.emcdda.europa.eu/online/annual-report/2011/library/fig20

Prepared 8th December 2012