"Our drug laws need fundamental review" - Dr Clare Gerada's speech at CDPRG launch

Dr Clare Gerada, 27th June 2019

This is an independent committee convened by Crispin Blunt- who unlike many other politicians is willing to bravely state the obvious, that our drug laws need a fundamental review.

I have been a GP for nearly three decades and before that a psychiatrist. All of this time I have worked with patients with substance misuse problems. First with the large number of heroin addicts we had in the 1980’s and 1990’s – which then moved to crack cocaine, other stimulants and more recently drugs such as mephedrone, ecstasy and its derivates and a whole host of drugs euphuistically called ‘club drugs’. I have worked through the HIV crises- where large numbers of my patients died as the result of their drug use. I have seen the horror that drug use causes – to the user, their families and to us, the public. I have seen the distress on children left behind when mothers are incarcerated due to their drug use, the lives ruined when my patients, having been charged with drug offences cannot get jobs and end up on benefits despite a desire to work. More recently in my work with sick doctors, I have seen the fear than many addicted doctors have in seeking help – and sadly death might be the first time any one finds out they were using drugs.

I have been on various committees, working parties, and guideline development groups around drugs and on the law. In 2000 I was on a joint Royal College committee where we looked at drug policy – and whilst then we felt that the law was the final break in use – we nevertheless flagged up the inconsistency in our laws around drugs which do the most harm to the most people have the least sanctions associated with them. This is about the public’s health. And currently our drug laws do little to improve our collective health; on the contrary - they worsen it.

Drug policy is fraught with problems. In the end our Government has to decide on the law and we have to respect this. But that does not mean we – experts, lay people, press, politicians can be silent on the issue and not explore and make recommendations as too what needs to change.