Drug Science Response to the UKs 10-Year Drug Strategy
Drug Science welcomes the fact that the government has agreed to accept many aspects of the Dame Carol Black review on addiction treatment services, to which Drug Science previously submitted evidence.
The major positive outcome appears to be a focus on the use of treatments rather than punishments to reduce drug use and harms. This suggests the government has at last caught up with the scientific community in understanding that addiction is a medical rather than a criminal issue and that criminalising drug users [as opposed to drug dealers] only perpetuates a cycle of use that drives more into drug dealing and hence more drug users.
As well as being humane this change of attitude makes sense for several reasons. These include the fact that the massive increase in prison numbers over the past 40 years for drug offences hasn’t reduced use. The rising deaths toll, especially from opioids, in the past five years, which now has reached an all-time high, reflects a failure of treatment availability.
However the proclaimed focus on recovery is worrying if that continues to translate into abstinence-only approaches. The recent calls by senior Tories to stop methadone use in prisons suggests that some still believe this dangerous idea that abstinence is the only acceptable outcome for addiction. Of course if it can be achieved abstinence is to be welcomed, and almost all opioid and alcohol addicts repeatedly try for this. But for most this is not immediately possible, and it comes with a greatly increased risk of death from accidental overdose when they relapse. So other policies must be pursued in parallel.
The three most important of these are: