Drug policy

Scotland’s drug statistics are a call to arms for radical reform

Scotland was recently shown to have the highest drug death per capita of any other European country, with the rest of the UK having the fifth-highest.

This figure should be a wake-up call, to both the SNP in Scotland and to the Conservatives in Westminster. This needs to be met with a new, radical approach to tackling drug-related issues. That approach should start with two things. Decriminalisation and legalisation.

It is clear by now that the UK’s war on drugs have failed. Consumption is up, overdoses are up, and our prisons are filled with non-violent drug offenders. We cannot carry on with the same old policies and attitudes towards drug use. 

Doing What Works in Policing Drugs

former Chief Constable Tom Lloyd

A few years ago I wrote an open letter to Police across the country saying that we should change the way we tackle the harms caused by drugs and the criminal markets that supply them. To be clear, I am not in favour of people harming themselves by taking substances, whether illegally or not.

I do believe we can develop more effective ways to reduce harmful drug use, and the crime and violence associated with drug supply. We need to do what works, not simply what we’ve always done.

It was encouraging to see the announcement earlier this week that North Wales Police Force will not automatically prosecute low level possession offences, but offer users treatment and rehabilitation services. North Wales are joining a number of other Police Forces around the country showing leadership on the drugs issue by moving away from automatic criminalisation of users and taking an alternative, public health-based approach.

It's a real public health concern that drug consumption is largely blind, with prohibition meaning that consumers don't know compounds or potency

Rob Wilson, CEO

It is remarkable that in the UK today most people have no idea what is in the illicit drugs they take.  At one level, it is odd that people do not seem to care more about what they are putting into their body – after all there is a level of personal responsibility in all this. But it is also true that with drugs being illegal, it is not easy to find ways of verifying the content even if you wished to.

According to our Public Attitudes to Drugs in the UK 2019 report out today, most people end up using cannabis completely blindfolded.  Many are young people and it is akin to them going into a bar and randomly selecting a drink from a bottle with no label. The majority of cannabis users have no knowledge of the strains they’re consuming and the impact on them of the varying proportions of the compounds.  It’s dangerous not to know or understand exactly what you are ingesting with food, let along illicitly supplied drugs – where levels of concern for welfare of customers is limited.

A more sophisticated approach to drugs is needed to tackle gang violence effectively

Rob Wilson, CEO

With everything else going on in politics and the world at the moment, an article in The Times entitled 'Criminal Gangs "Better Funded Than the Police"' may have passed people by. For those of us on the centre right of politics it should serve as a wake up call, an eye-opener to the evidence about what is happening on our streets now...today!

Young offenders, according to Jackie Sebire, Deputy Assistant of the National Police Chiefs' Council, no longer care about the consequences of committing violent crimes because criminal gangs are better funded than the police. She points out that drug users in Bedfordshire spend almost as much on cocaine and cannabis alone as the force's £113 million budget. Not long ago the Home Affairs Select Committee also pointed to the Police being behind the criminal gangs in terms of the use of technology and other state of the art equipment.

Can Drug Consumption Rooms Reduce Drug-related Harms in the UK?

Euan Hunt

With increasing use in Europe and recent discussion in the UK, it’s useful to explore what Drug Consumption Rooms really are and their impact.

Drug Consumption Rooms (DCRs), also known as “Overdose Prevention Centres” and more pejoratively as “shooting galleries” are healthcare facilities, usually run by charities or the state, where healthcare professionals supervise drug users to consume drugs in a safe environment. They provide safe and sterile paraphernalia (the biggest emphasis is placed on needles but smoking and inhalants can be tended to as well). As well as preventing overdoses, DCRs aim to reduce drug use in public and improve public amenity in areas surrounding urban drug markets. For example, in Barcelona, the number of unsafely disposed syringes being collected was at a monthly average of over 13,000 in 2004 which fell to around 3,000 in 2012 (Vecino et al., 2013). They also help addicts connect with addiction treatment and other support. Over half of them are open on a daily basis and are open for an average of eight hours a day.