Charities slam Drugs Bill for focus on crime at expense of treatment

Drugs charities have accused the government of using the Drugs Bill
as a “political vote winner” for the next election rather than the
promotion of effective treatment and prevention measures.

Critics are concerned that drugs legislation is being placed “at
the centre” of the crime reduction agenda and warn that it will not
lead to improved care.

The Drugs Bill, which is waiting for a second reading, will
introduce powers to test offenders on arrest and require those who
test positive to undergo an assessment by a drugs worker.

Other proposals aimed at drug dealers will give the police greater
powers to detain those who swallow drugs, and put people on
antisocial behaviour orders with drug misuse problems in

A source from one charity said: “This is part of an election
strategy to put drugs into the heart of the criminal justice
manifesto instead
of a broader social welfare and health agenda.”

Charities including Drugscope and Turning Point are concerned the
bill, unveiled last month in the Queen’s Speech, could be rushed
too quickly through parliament, and are lobbying for alternative

A spokeswoman for Drugscope said: “We do not feel that the measures
in the Drugs Bill address the need to provide treatment to drug
users in the community, who have not committed a crime and who can
be prevented from committing a crime in the future by prompt access
to treatment.”

Charities also believe that the measures in the bill will not lead
to an improvement in the success rate of referrals into treatment
or a reduction in drop-out rates on drug testing and treatment
orders (DTTOs).

Recent figures from the National Audit Office showed an estimated
34 per cent of drug users who receive treatment drop out within the
first 12 weeks, with only 28 per cent completing a DTTO in

Charities are calling for the bill to include proposals on meeting
complex needs such as mental health, better aftercare, greater use
of heroin prescribing and more investment in staff training
including GPs.

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