Successful of drugs (GOV, Misuse of drugs legislation,

Successful or
senseless?

A critical analysis of the UK’s drug policy is needed. The
UK drug policy commission is a charity that analysis current trends of drug use
and provides an objective analysis of the UK’s policies and practices. There
has been a steady increase in drug misuse over the last few decades. One in ten
adults have used cocaine in their lifetime, most aged between 20-24 (Mcveigh,
2015).
In comparison to other countries UK is the fourth largest cocaine abuser in the
world. The UK has a 40-year-old legislation of substance misuse, the laws are
harsh and focus on punishment rather than treatment. Compare this to countries
where drug use is less apparent, and laws are more lenient and focused on
rehabilitation rather than punishment we can see our system doesn’t work (Rogers, 2012). It’s time for a
fresh, modern outlook on drug abuse and how we treat drug abusers.

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Law and no order

The misuse of drugs act 1971 sought to control and prevent
the misuse of drugs. It imposes a ban on the supply, possession, import and
exportation and manufacturing of drugs (GOV, Misuse of drugs legislation,
2016).
Forty years on is this legislation still effective in todays modern society?
The answer is no. over the last forty years there has been a steady increase in
drug abuse in the UK. In 2015 2,479 recorded deaths were registered due to
substance abuse. This is a 48% increase since 2005. In 2015/16 2.7 million
adults were recorded as having taken a controlled substance in the last year
and 288,843 of these known individuals were receiving help or rehabilitation
for drug and alcohol abuse (NHS, Statistics on Drugs Misuse:
England, 2017, 2017). Clearly these figures are evidence
that this legislation is not effective. With a 48% increase over 12 years in
drug misuse we should be alarmed. There needs to be a change in how the
government manages and treats substance misuse.

Keep it classy

The UK ABC classification system provides guidelines for
drug regulation. In 1971 the government stated the three classes are in
accordance to the potential dangers of the said drug in relation to current
scientific knowledge (GOV, Drugs penalties, 2017). Class A includes
the drugs Heroin and crack cocaine. Class b includes codeine and amphetamine.
Class
C includes Valium and anabolic steroids. Forty-eight years later since this
classification, there has been little change in the guidelines for
classification but tremendous change in drug research. The class act is
supposed to send a message to society on what they perceive the most harmful
drugs are therefore the government hopes people won’t use the more serious
drugs. Classification is not effective in deterring individuals from using
drugs. In 2004 Cannabis was changed from a class B to a class C, the public
thought this would encourage more cannabis use, but the drug use prevalence
statistics show a decline in cannabis users from 2004-2009, when it was then
reclassified as a class B (FRANK, 2017). The advisory
council measuring drugs said that classification will have little or no effect
at all on drug users. In the UK we classify controlled drugs according to relative
harm and then sentence people based on the class of drug involved. In Finland
the sentence is focused on the activity involved whether it be supply or usage
then they sentence based on that regardless of the class of drug involved (Hardison,
2006).
In the UK 4% of young adults have used cocaine compare this to Finland where
only 1% have used cocaine. The two approaches between these two countries on
class and sentencing shows that class of drug is not effective in deterring or
managing substance misuse (EMCA, 2017) .

What’s the crack?

There can never be an exact number on cocaine users in the
UK. There is an estimated 193,000 crack cocaine users in this country who use
coke once or more times a week. In 2005 an estimated half a million-young
people tried cocaine within the last year compare this to 2014 figures where an
estimated 725,000 young people had (Lader, 2015). Cocaine use has
increased but the policy hasn’t. strengthening once again the argument that the
UK drug policy is not effective. In 2003 the purity of cocaine trend sold at
street level was 60% but in 2013 it was found to be only 38% pure (Reuter &
stevens, 2014).
The policy hasn’t changed in from 2003-2013 and if the aim of policy is to reduced
harm then it’s not working, cocaine is becoming less pure at street level.
Under the current policy cocaine is a class A drug, the crime survey for
England and wales shows 17.8% of younger people aged 16-19 reported using
cocaine in their lifetime, compared with 2.2% of 50-59-year olds (EMCA, 2017). The older
generation are not using cocaine so much but the striking difference in these
percentages shows that the current policy needs to change to appeal and fit
todays modern society.

 

 

Sniffing for
sanity

In 2016 the government introduced the Psychoactive substance
bill. The legislations aim is eradicating shops and websites that supply legal
highs. Legal highs are not your traditional drugs, they contain chemicals that
give the user a psychoactive experience (GOV, Psychoactive substances act,
2016).
From 2004 – 2013 there has been steady recorded increase in legal high usage in
the UK. In 2017 there was a dramatic increase in deaths registered because of
taking illegal highs. So, one year after this bill was introduced the evidence
shows its not effective. The office for national statistics reported in 2016
that 39 people died from a psychoactive substance that was not banned at the
time of death (dearden, 2017). So many new legal
highs are available to people the government can’t keep up with the supply and
study of them, hence why these 39-people died because of a psychoactive drug
that wasn’t illegal at the time.

Where’s the harm?

The British drug policy for harm reduction is only concerned
with decreasing harm associated with substance using and not actually
decreasing drug use itself. The current measures taken in the UK to reduce harm
are; needle programmes, where users can get clean needles to stop the
transmission of blood borne virus’. Drug consumption rooms, where users can
consume drugs in a safe place and opioid substitution therapy. Where users are
prescribed methadone or a similar replacement drug as a substitute for taking
illegal drugs (Reuter & stevens, 2014). We can never have
an exact figure on how many drug related deaths there are in the UK each year
but in 2017 the office for national statistics reported there were 3,744
registered deaths as a result of drug poisoning, compared with 2015 figures we
see a 70% increase (Manders, 2017). In 2017 the
European drug report was released by the European Commission and the European
Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction. The report showed 8,441 deaths
were registered in Europe as a result of heroin or opiate use, The UK was
responsible for 31% of these deaths. Despite the opioid substitution therapy
and clean needle schemes in 2016 54% of all drug related deaths were due to
heroin or opiate intake, such schemes are clearly not effective with reducing
harm and a new approach is needed. Britain has historically been one of the
countries that has always been on board and supportive of harm reduction.
However, as the above figures show, its one thing to say your supportive and
another to actually be making a difference. The harm reduction statistics do
not reflect a successful strategy in the UK.

Dying to live

The 2017 government drug strategy outlined one of its main
aims was to increase the number of individuals who successfully recover from
drug abuse (GOV, 2017 drug strategy, 2017). In 2017 23% of drug
users said they were dependent on them and addicted. In England it was reported
that 1 in every 500 babies born were addicted to drugs as a cause of the mother
using whilst pregnant (BBC, 2016). Despite the
government introducing schemes like the BabyCenter website and clinic to help
pregnant mothers get off drugs, the statistics from 2014 -2017 shows that the
number of reported babies born dependent on drugs has only slightly fallen. In
the UK it on average takes 2 months for a drug user to be placed in a suitable
NHS rehab facility, it is not rare for it to take up to 6 months. For a drug
dependent user to be provided with a suitable outpatient’s support network when
they leave the rehabilitation centre is difficult (smith, 2015). According to the
national office for statistics 46% of individuals who have completed a rehab
programme re use drugs within 5 years (Lader, 2015). This high
percentage of drug reoffenders displays a failing recovery programme in the UK.
Under our current school curriculum drug based education is compulsory. Meaning
all school children aged 11-16 will get access and information about drugs, the
risk of drugs and the different types of drugs. This is a prevention tool the
government introduced in order to deter young people away from drugs by making
the dangers aware to them. In 2016 24% of pupils aged 11-14 reported that they
had used illegal drugs in their lifetime. Compare this to the statistics from
2014 we see a 15% increase (NHS, Smoking, Drinking and Drug
Use Among Young People in England – 2016, 2016). The aim of this
programme is to deter young people from taking drugs, with the increase of
pupils using drugs this reflects the programme is not effective. The government’s
policy very much so needs to be changed to meet the needs of today’s modern
society and how it reaches out and educates our young people.

Stop and smoke

In the year 2000 Portugal decriminalized drugs. If an
individual is found to have an appropriate amount for a 10-day supply of an
illicit substance, then they are not arrested. Instead they receive a caution
and treatment if deemed necessary. This approach was extremely criticised at
first, most people thought it would encourage drug use. The figures however
show a different story, the number of drug related deaths have dramatically
decreased since the decriminalisation came in. the number of newly diagnosed
HIV infections has also dropped staggeringly, from 1016 cases in 2001 to only
56 reported cases in 2016 (oakford, 2016). This approach
clearly is effective, and the UK should lead from this example.

Toking for change

The current British drug policy is not effective in managing
substance abuse and its related harms. In previous decades and in the present
years there has been a steady increase in drug use. The UK is currently the
fourth largest crack cocaine abuser in the world (EMCA, 2017). The misuse of drugs
act (1971) is out of date and not effective in todays modern society. In 2015
there was an alarming 48% registered death increase due to substance abuse since
2005. The ABC classification policy does not deter people from using drugs. A staggering
number of individuals who have attended NHS funded rehab facilities have
reported using drugs within 5 years of leaving the programme (NHS,
Statistics on Drugs Misuse: England, 2017, 2017). The government
funded education programmes in schools do not work, 24% of pupils aged 11-14
reported using drugs in their lifetime. Our drugs policy is 47 years old, it is
not effective in todays world as all the statistics show. Portugal
decriminalised drugs in the year 2000, since this law took hold the number of
drug related deaths have plummeted. This European approach is clearly effective,
the number of new HIV diagnosis’ are at an all-time low, showing it is also
effective in reducing drug related harms. England needs to adopt some of our
neighbouring countries attitudes and policies towards drugs as our own are not
working.  There needs to be a change in
our approach to drugs and drug users and the change needs to happen now.