Tuesday, February 26, 2008

New drug strategy ignores the terrible costs of past failures

Below is Transform's press release on the new drug strategy. By necessity it is quite sound bite-y but for those interested there are links to further analysis in the notes to editors. We will publish a commentary on the document when we have seen the detail at some point tomorrow.

New drug strategy ignores the terrible costs of past failures

The UK Government’s new 10 year drug strategy, and three year action plan, is published tomorrow (Feb 27th). Transform Drug Policy Foundation, the UK’s leading centre of expertise on drug policy and law reform, have highlighted how, despite £30 billion being spent on drug enforcement during the last ten year strategy, crime costs of over £100 billion have been accrued. Lessons from these failings have been ignored by the new strategy.

Transform spokesperson Steve Rolles said:

“The new drug strategy arrives after ten years of disastrous policy failure, yet during last year’s sham consultation and review process the Home Office utterly failed to acknowledge failure or meaningfully engage in a debate on policy alternatives. Instead, success has been claimed with a shameful parade of cherry picked statistics and Home Office spin.

“In stark contrast, documents the Government attempted to suppress clearly demonstrate that they have known about the counterproductive nature of supply side drug enforcement for many years, yet continued to pour money into it – something in the region of 3 billion a year – despite the knowledge it was contributing to a further 16 billion year in crime costs.

“This deception and lack of rational debate and engagement with reality, has meant we now have a new drug strategy shaped by political needs rather than any evidence of what actually works. This political posturing and moral grandstanding means we face the prospect of tens of billions more being wasted on counterproductive supply-side enforcement initiatives over the next ten years, resulting in literally hundreds of billions more in crime costs. Tragically, the new strategy is nothing more than a miserable regurgitation of past mistakes with a bit of cosmetic spin and window dressing. Its prospects of having a meaningful impact on drug related harms to individuals and communities are zero. They are playing politics with peoples lives.

“The first step, if there is any hope of drug related harm being reduced in the long term, is for the Government to start telling the truth. This means acknowledging the failure of a predominantly enforcement led approach and beginning to shift the emphasis of policy towards proven public health led initiatives. This will involve investing money in education, prevention, treatment, and addressing the social deprivation that underlies most problematic drug use – instead of yet more heavy handed police and military enforcement that only serves to make drug problems worse, fill our prisons, and maximise drug harms.

Notes to editors:


Transform spokesperson Steve Rolles.
Mob: 07980 213 943,
Email: steve@tdpf.org.uk

  • Transform forward notice briefing on the drug strategy (pdf); providing the historical and political backdrop for the new publication, a description of its likely contents, critique of Home Office claims of success, details on suppressed documents, along with detailed notes and links to further information.
  • Media fact research guide; headline statistics and links, along with some commentary and critique, on a variety of statistics drug related topics including drug useage, drug crime, social and ecomics costs of drug use, prison population, drug prices, drug deaths, and the sioze of the drug market.

  • The Prime Minister’s strategy unit drugs report, presented to ministers in 2003 (including Gordon Brown), and leaked to the media in 2005, demonstrates the historic failure of attempts to reduce drug supply and clearly explains why they will not be any more effective in the future.

UK importers and suppliers make enough profit to absorb the modest cost of drug seizures” (p.82)

“The long term decline in the real price of drugs, against a backdrop of rising consumption, indicates that an ample supply of heroin and cocaine has been reaching the UK market”(p.80)

“Despite seizures, real prices for heroin and cocaine in the UK have halved over the last ten years”(p.91)

“Over the past 10-15 years, despite interventions at every point in the supply chain, cocaine and heroin consumption has been rising, prices falling and drugs have continued to reach users. Government interventions against the drug business are a cost of business, rather than a substantive threat to the industry’s viability.” (p.94)

The report goes on to show that even if supply side interventions were more successful, the result would be increased prices that could force addicts to commit more crime to support their habits.

“There is no evidence to suggest that law enforcement can create such droughts” (p.102)

[but even if they could…..]

“price increases may even increase overall harm, as determined users commit more crime to fund their habit and more than offset the reduction in crime from lapsed users”(p.99)


Derek said...

Well, words nearly (but not quite) fail me.

A sham of a consultation and then proposals from another planet.

So, you can be arrested for alleged dealing and lose your house? Beware the boot at the door in the early hours indeed, police state here we come!

Not sure how that will sit with the human rights act though, but according to Jaquie Smith this morning on Radio 4 they’ll “change the law” to allow it, but it’s ok, if you can prove you’re innocent you’ll get it all back…

Be very afraid.

As for losing benefits for not attending drug rehab, that's going to cut acquisitive crime isn't it?

Talk about losing the plot...

john-boi said...

Hi Steve I heard you on 5 live this morning and you did well getting your point across.As Derek says beware the kick on the door innocent or not you will be presumed guilty and your assets seized.
THis Government still against all evidence to the contrary follows this failed policy of the last 10 years unbelievable.If they only spent some of the money they waste on enforcement we may have some chance of helping our citizens whose drug use turns into abuse

Anonymous said...

No Steve,

They'v finally realised that the propaganda you and others have been dispensing for so long is flawed.

Ever thought of getting a proper job?

chrisbx515 said...

All as expected – drugs strategy based on ignorance of evidence as we all expected. So no change and no progress but with a few more draconian measures added to keep the prohibitionists happy.

Steve R said...

yes all very disappointing but rather predictable.

anon - I don't think playground name calling will advance your position much, whatever it may be. Obviously though Id welcome examples of what you see as propaganda that you take issue with. I'm always up for a debate.

I have produced a detailed briefing of Home office propaganda. Do you dispute the contents?