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War On Drugs Failed


Wednesday, May 20th, 2009 War On Drugs Failed

This report comes at no surprise to probably most of the readers. Kathy Gyngell’s (18 05 09) article is another example how a top down approach quite often fails unlike the grass root approach, where little seedlings grow.

It has been suggested that ‘Labour’s phoney war on drugs has failed. Notably since they came into power they have spent inexcess of £10 billion fighting its war on drugs. Some have argued that this figure represents more than what has been spent on the war in Iraq. Some now believe it is time to change approach.

Indeed, last week the Serious Organised Crime Agency (Soca) ‘boldly asserted that their activities had resulted in a 25 per cent rise in the wholesale price of cocaine and a slump in its quality on our streets. And the last year has been littered with pronouncements from the Home Secretary and the Home Office about reduced cannabis consumption, demonstrating the progress made by those working in the drugs field.’ Gyngell argues that ‘neither could be further from the truth.’

It would now be relevant to look more closely at the evidence. More significantly, Gyngell argues, ‘It only needs a back-of-an-envelope calculation to see that Soca’s price rise claim was bogus, accounted for by the currency fluctuations of the past five months and that, in fact, over the past year, the price of cocaine – already low – had actually dropped further, not risen.’

Essentially, it is being argued that more drugs are penetrating the Countries streets since the establishment of SOCA three years ago. It has been argued that ‘drug seizures have plummeted; that quantities of heroin, cocaine and cannabis seized coming into the UK have dropped by 68 per cent, 16 per cent and 34 per cent respectively, between 2000 and 2007. Understandably, law enforcement agencies say that they need five times the resources to be effective, not surprising since only 28 per cent of the drugs policy budget is committed to controlling supply.’

Evidently, it has become apparent that Britain has the worst drugs crisis in the whole of Europe. Crucially, the “problem drug user” (PDU), or addict, population has increased from 130,000 in 1998 to 330,000. Furthermore as reported, ‘adult cocaine use has doubled in the same period. With 10 PDUs per 1,000 of the population, our rate is twice that of Sweden and three times that of the Netherlands.’ Addictions today also support the claim and further suggest that ‘drug use has spread to rural areas and the age of children’s initiation into drugs has dropped. 41% of 15 year olds, and 11% of 11 year olds, have taken drugs.’

Drug related deaths continue to rise and the latest figures released (2002) identified the fact that there were as many as 300,000 children of addict parents.

Notwithstanding, the UK has one of the most liberal drug policies in Europe. The Labour government however have not focused on attempting to combat all illicit drug use; it has only focused on the addict population. Fundamentally the aim was to limit harm caused by drug use as opposed to reducing drug use in itself. Ultimately this is where most of the £10m has been spent.

According to the Telegraph, ‘he policy has not just failed, it has backfired, with 147,000 people, many of them parents, entrapped in state-sponsored addiction. Their reoffending rates have been barely affected. Methadone leaking onto the illicit drugs markets through unsupervised consumption has led to rising deaths. Despite all the money spent, no more addicts are breaking their addiction than would have done so without any government-sponsored treatment.’

Another important aspect to be considered is that the ‘number of offences for importing drugs, and for dealing and possession, have continued to drop during Labour’s time in office. Dealers not only have little fear of arrest but have benefited from the lax attitude of both the Government’s “Frank” drug awareness campaign and the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs to recreational drug use.’

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