HTTP/1.0 200 OK Content-Type: text/html Britain's Fight Against Drugs 'A Total Failure'
Pubdate: Sun, 15 Apr 2007
Source: Observer, The (UK)
Copyright: 2007 The Observer
Author: Denis Campbell and Anushka Asthana, The Observer
Cited: Transform Drugs Policy Foundation
Bookmark: (Cannabis - United Kingdom)
Bookmark: (Cocaine)
Bookmark: (Decrim/Legalization)
Bookmark: (Drug Testing)
Bookmark: (Heroin)


Devastating Report Reveals Soaring Use Among the Young

Government attempts to persuade thousands of young people to stay 
away from drugs have failed and done nothing to curb the soaring 
popularity of illegal substances, a devastating report will warn this week.

The number of young people using cocaine and cannabis has increased 
rapidly over the past 20 years despite high-profile campaigns, such 
as the UKP9m 'Frank' initiative aimed at 11 to 15-year-olds, 
according to an in-depth examination of official efforts to tackle 
Britain's chronic drug problem. It is also expected to claim that 
Britain's 'unusually severe drug problem compared with that of our 
European neighbours' is linked to social and economic deprivation, 
that punitive laws have had little effect and that police efforts to 
disrupt the drugs trade have also failed.

The report will be launched on Wednesday by the new UK Drugs Policy 
Commission, whose members include distinguished figures from the 
worlds of health, policing, drugs research and academia. They include 
David Blakey, a former president of the Association of Chief Police 
Officers, Annette Dale-Perera of the NHS-funded National Treatment 
Agency for Substance Misuse and Professor Colin Blakemore, who leads 
the Medical Research Council.

The study, 'An Analysis of UK Drugs Policy', has been written by two 
internationally respected experts, Professor Peter Reuter of Maryland 
University in the US and Alex Stevens, senior researcher at the 
European Institute of Social Services at Kent University.

Their findings are a scathing indictment of decades of education, 
prevention and awareness-raising campaigns intended to warn 
youngsters about the perils of narcotics. The three main strategies 
into which successive governments have ploughed tens of millions of 
pounds - mass media campaigns such as 'heroin screws you up' in the 
1980s, initiatives in schools aimed at pupils as young as seven and 
targeting of vulnerable groups - have made little or no difference, it says.

'Prevention is cited as the main policy area aiming to reduce drug 
initiation and continued use. The policy is predicated on the 
assumption that prevention efforts reduce drug use, but there is as 
yet no clear evidence showing that prevention has had this effect in 
the UK,' the authors conclude.

The National Institute of Clinical Excellence recently drew similar 
conclusions about the usefulness of drugs prevention campaigns.

'It now seems that what might be termed "recreational" drug use has 
become firmly established as an experience that many young people 
will go through' because consumption of illicit substances is now so 
common in their age group, the document says. The failure to deter 
growing levels of drug use has contributed to Britain developing the 
most chronic drug problem in Western Europe, according to the report.

The report cites an array of official statistics charting the steady 
growth in Britain's drugs culture. For example, according to the 2005 
British Crime Survey, 40.4 per cent of 16 to 19-year-olds have used 
drugs at some point in their lifetime, as have 49 per cent of 20 to 
24-year-olds, 51.6 per cent of 25 to 29-year-olds and 45.8 per cent 
of 30 to 34-year-olds.

While cannabis use by young people has fallen recently, it remains 
around 50 per cent and consumption of cocaine has increased. The Home 
Office last night rejected the new body's findings. A spokesman said 
research showed that giving young people information about drugs, 
rather than adopting a 'just say no' approach, was a more effective 
way of warning them about the dangers.

'The British Crime Survey shows that drug use has fallen by 16 per 
cent since 1998 and drug use among adults has fallen by 21 per cent. 
We are determined to build on this progress by continuing to take 
more drugs off our streets, put more dealers behind bars and make 
sure young people are informed about the harms drugs cause', he said.

But Peter Walker, a former secondary school head teacher who 
pioneered random drug testing at his school and is now a Whitehall 
adviser on drugs, last night agreed that government policy on drugs 
had not had enough of an impact.

'What has been done has not been as effective as the public or the 
government would like it to be,' he said. But while he accepted that 
'methods of prevention are not good enough,' he dismissed the notion 
that prevention could not work.

Danny Kushlick, director of the pro-legalisation Transform Drugs 
Policy Foundation, said the new study backed his view that attempts 
to discourage drug use were pointless. 'We know from evidence that 
misuse of drugs is related significantly to social ill-being and 
social deprivation. You cannot deal with that stuff with education 
and prevention or through teaching younger and younger children. You 
deal with it by redistributing wealth and improving wellbeing.' 
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