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EDITIONS
10-year programme to tackle drug misuse
Drugs czar Keith Hellawell published his first annual report on Tuesday
The government has proposed a 217m, 10-year programme for reducing drug misuse.

Cabinet Office minister Dr Jack Cunningham told the Commons that the strategy would concentrate on reducing misuse by young people, reducing their access to drugs - particularly heroin and cocaine which cause the most harm, halving re-offending by drugs offenders and doubling drug users participation in treatment programmes.

The government's plans are based on the first annual report and national plan on drug misuse in England and Wales by "drugs czar" Keith Hellawell.

Dr Cunningham said drug misuse was a subject for everyone since drug addicts were responsible for 30% of crime, mainly burglary and theft.

Addicts may need up to 20,000 a year to fund their habit, he said.

"If we can make a positive impact on drug abuse we can say with some confidence that we can make a positive impact on crime," said Dr Cunningham.

Targets

He added that Mr Hellawell's report showed how national and local agencies had come together "for the first time" to work in partnership towards targets for reducing drug misuse.

Dr Cunningham said the government would focus on reducing the number of under 25 year olds who abused drugs and on lowering reoffending rates.

It is estimated that up to 90% of people convicted of drugs crimes re-offend.

Jack Cunningham: 'Treating drug misuse will reduce drug crime'
The government plans to set a series of targets for reducing drug misuse and availability of drugs and increasing treatment for addicts.

A sum of 217m has been committed to anti-drugs activities, said Dr Cunningham.

Resources in the criminal justice system would be redirected from tackling the consequences of drug misuse to tackling the problem itself.

Dr Cunningham also stated that there would be no let-up in pressure on dealers.

Traffickers in hard drugs would be subject to a minimum seven-year sentence and their assets would be seized.

Some 3m of assets seized from convicted traffickers would be channelled back into treating drug misuse in 1999/2000, he said.

A further sum of 6m would be committed to research into drug misuse, an area which Dr Cunningham said had been neglected in the past.

Voluntary and public sector anti-drug groups would get support from the Drugs Prevention Advisory Service.

The government has also set medium- and long-term targets for reducing drug use among under 25 year olds, particularly misuse of heroin and cocaine.

It plans to reduce use by a quarter by 2005 and by a half by 2008.

It says it will reduce availability of heroin and cocaine by 25% by 2005 and 50% by 2008.

Dr Cunningham also announced short-term plans on drugs, including a 20% reduction in drug misuse by 11 to 16 year olds by 2002, a one third increase in the seizure of traffickers' assets and the introduction of a comprehensive drug treatment project in prisons.

Crime costs

Heroin use is rising among young children
Keith Hellawell was appointed as the government's anti-drugs co-ordinator in April 1998.

He said good progress had been made against drug abuse in the last year.

"Partnership is the key to the menace of drugs misuse," he said.

He added that his proposed targets were "robust and meaningful" and would enable the government and drug agencies "to measure our progress over the coming year".

Mr Hellawell said the last year had been spent setting the groundwork for tackling drug misuse.

For example, local drug action teams have drawn up co-ordinated action plans, health authorities have been required to include anti-drugs measures in health improvement plans, Customs and Excise have revised drug enforcement policies and more information on drugs has been made available to parents and teachers.

Three areas had also piloted drug treatment and testing orders which aim to divert drug offenders from the prison system, where this is suitable, and reduce re-offending.

"There needs to be treatment, whether it is in the community or in prison," he said.

A recent study of 1,000 drug users found that criminal activity halved after treatment.

It is estimated that for every 1 spent on drug treatment, 3 is saved on the costs of crime.

Young people in the UK are reported to be taking up to five times more illegal drugs than their European counterparts - particularly amphetamines and ecstasy.

The Standing Conference on Drug Abuse says use of illegal drugs has increased eight-fold among 15-year-olds in the last 10 years and five-fold among 12-year-olds.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
Video
The BBC's Alison Holt: "The problem is heroin is cheap and available"
Audio
The BBC's Niall Dickson: "The main thrust of the government's campaign is now clear"
Audio
Keith Hellawell: It is a manageable problem
Video
The BBC's Alison Holt: "More young people are experimenting with drugs"
Video
Jack Cunningham announces the new measures in the House of Commons
Video
The BBC's Aminatta Forna: The emphasis will be on treatment
Video
The BBC's Niall Dickson: The addicts are getting younger all the time
See also:

19 May 98 | Drugs
18 Feb 99 | Health
14 Oct 98 | Medical notes
19 May 98 | Drugs
14 Sep 99 | Medical notes
25 May 99 | Drugs
21 Dec 98 | Health
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