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UK Drugs Inquiry: Drug Science Response

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In 2019, Drug Science submitted evidence to the Drugs Policy Inquiry by the Health and Social Care Committee.

In 2020, we prepared a detailed report in response to the Dame Carol Black Drugs Review.

In 2021, we reacted to the government’s 10-year Drug Strategy.

Our 2022 response to the UK government’s call for evidence of the effectiveness of the current UK drugs framework has just been published online, echoing many of the key points highlighted previously.

Together with an outstanding array of other charities, such as Transform and Release, as well as a host of dedicated individuals, including our scientific committee experts, we hope that our continuous submissions will contribute to the UK government changing their unempirical drug policies to finally be in line with the scientific evidence.

Ten Key Points of our 2022 Response

I. It is evident that the UK drug framework has not been effective in reducing illicit drug use and related harms, and that the whole framework needs to be reformed.

2. There is no scientific reason why the regulation of substances that are currently controlled under the Misuse of Drugs Act (MDA) 1971 should be separate from the regulation of other potentially harmful psychoactive substances.

3. Evidence consistently shows that there is no relationship between the classification of drugs under the MDA 1971 and scientific analysis on the harmfulness of controlled substances compared with non-controlled ones such as alcohol and tobacco.

4. The lack of proper scientific assessment of drug harms means the MDA 1971 is unfit for its purpose. Its’ focus on prohibition- known to exacerbate the harms that drugs cause- has contributed to UK now having the highest drug death rate in Europe.

5. The framework has failed to prevent considerable increases in drug-related deaths. Rather, its focus on recovery, too often interpreted as abstinence, likely increased deaths due to relapses in people who have lost tolerance when abstinent.

6. There is little evidence that arresting suppliers or seizing drugs reduces drug availability or related offending. Instead, the most effective means of reducing drug-related offending is to include people into efficient treatment and social support services that help them to stabilise and then recover from drug problems.

7. Addiction is a medical rather than a criminal issue – this understanding has to be the core of an effective and humane drug policy.

8. Much of today’s recreational drug use is not impactful on local communities and the wider society, similar to most alcohol drinking. Drug taking should not be blamed for all social ills. Rather, underlying social-economic conditions, such as deprivation and subsequent hopelessness need to be addressed.

9. We need to urgently review the regulation of all psychoactive substances (including tobacco and alcohol), and discussions need to be informed by the research evidence, practitioners, and people who use drugs and their families, to produce a coherent and effective approach.

10. A key issue is to listen to the scientific evidence and focus on international approaches, that have already shown to be effective, such as that in Portugal

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