‘Clamping down on cannabis won’t win war on drugs’

Each year, the UK spends at least £3bn trying to tackle the problems caused by drug use.

Some of that is supported by evidence. The £1bn that the UK spends on treating people addicted to drugs provides excellent value for money. Needle exchange programmes have kept HIV rates in drug users to among the lowest in the world.

“Police action can unintentionally lead to increased violence”
But most of the rest of that £3bn is spent on programmes that have very little evidence behind them. Counter-intuitively, this includes some things that may at first sight appear to be obviously worth doing.

For example, some drug education programmes in schools not only fail to reduce drug use, but can actually make some young people more likely to use drugs. This has been proven in the case of programmes like Just Say No.

Equally, the work of the police and border agencies in chasing down drug suppliers can play an important role in protecting communities from the misery brought by the drug trade.

But some police action can unintentionally lead to increased violence, for example when it sparks a turf war between gangs.

The UK Drug Policy Commission has spent six years examining how drug policy can be made more effective and efficient.

“In medicine, we no longer accept the spending of billions of pounds on treatments that are not backed up by firm evidence”
We publish our final report today , in which we propose several policy changes that we believe could produce better results.

These proposals include some changes to the laws on drugs. The evidence suggests that reducing penalties for low-level drug possession can allow the authorities to focus on treating addiction and help people rebuild their lives. When other countries have tried this, overall drug use has not gone up.

But more important than any of these particular proposals is the need for better evidence. In medicine, we no longer accept the spending of billions of pounds on treatments that are not backed up by firm evidence. We should take the same approach to drug policy.

We need a body to collect and promote the evidence for what works to tackle drug problems, so that politicians and those on the frontline have access to the best evidence.

This could cost less than one per cent of what we spend on drug policy, and should easily pay for itself while also helping to save lives and bring relief to communities menaced by drugs.

via : UK MSN

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