New drugs policy report opens door for wider debate, says Swanswell

15 October 2012

Swanswell believes a new report calling for a fresh approach to tackling drug misuse in the UK is a welcome step to opening a wider debate about substance misuse.

The national charity, which wants to achieve a society free from problem alcohol and drug use, is responding to findings from the UK Drugs Policy Commission’s ‘Fresh approach to drugs’ report, which is a six-year study into Britain’s drug laws.

As part of the report, the UKDPC looked at how society and government can ‘enable and support individuals to behave responsibly’ and focus on how ‘society and government can enable and promote recovery from entrenched drug problems.’ 

The study’s analysis of evidence suggests that existing policies struggle to make an impact in tackling drug misuse and may make the situation worse in some cases.

Tackling social problems that increase the risk of drug problems,  providing evidence-based prevention programmes to support less risky choices and tackling the stigma towards people with drug problems and their families are some of the key recommendations.

In addition, it suggests that criminal sanctions imposed on the 42,000 people sentenced every year for possession of all drugs  - and the 160,000 given cannabis warnings – should be replaced with simpler civil penalties such as fines, drug awareness sessions or referral to drug treatment programmes (reports the Guardian).

However, the UKDPC’s report rejects any other legalisation moves because it says selling other drugs such as heroin or cocaine legally could cause more damage, than under the existing trade. 

Debbie Bannigan, Swanswell’s Chief Executive, welcomes the findings of the six-year study.

She said: ‘Although the report highlights that some policies have been working over time, it’s clear that others aren’t working as well as they should, so we welcome this as  a first step into opening a wider debate about tackling drug use.

We agree that the current UK approach is simplistic and fails to recognise that entrenched drug problems are linked to inequality and social exclusion in many cases – something that needs to be tackled at a government level.

It’s difficult to say whether decriminalisation would work or not but the current system doesn’t tackle the root cause of an individual’s drug use; something that can play a big part in helping with their recovery and ensuring they stay drug free.

But simply criminalising someone can do more harm than good – it’s important to offer access to appropriate treatment and support to make sure they have the help they need to turn their life around for the better.

So it’s time for a review of the current drugs policy and for all of us to accept responsibility for tackling problem drug use – it’s not something any government, organisation or individual can do on their own.’

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