UK drugs policy not working, says report

Government drug policy is having a “minimal impact” on the use of illegal drugs in the UK, a report says today.

The report by the UK Drugs Policy Commission, a new independent organisation, says that education and prevention schemes for young people are among those that have failed to stem the rise in drug use over the last decade.

It finds there is “little consistent or reliable evidence” to show that drug education and prevention schemes have brought about less drug use or to show the effectiveness of enforcement measures such as lengthy prison sentences for drug users.

Despite increased investment in treatment, the majority of government spending on responding to illegal drugs is still devoted to enforcing drug laws, while reporting government expenditure on drugs policy is “difficult” because of a lack of transparency, according to the report.

The UK has the second-highest rate of drug-related deaths in Europe, with 1,644 deaths occurring in 2005, according to figures cited in the report. It also has double the rates of dependent or problematic drug use compared other European countries.

The UK Drugs Policy Commission, launched today, said it aimed to provide an “objective” analysis of issues related to drug policy in the UK.

Chair Dame Ruth Runciman said: “The Commission does not start from the position that all UK drug policy has failed, but rather that we do not know enough about which elements of policy work, why they work and where they work well.”

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