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Thursday, 28 March, 2002, 09:46 GMT
Drugs policy 'a resounding failure'
Heroin user
Britain is among the top five consumers of heroin
The drugs policies of New Labour and previous governments have been a "resounding failure", according to a think-tank set up by Tony Blair.

A report for the Foreign Policy Centre said ministers have failed to recognise the true cause of drug abuse - poverty.

Report author Rowena Young says there are now 500 times as many drug addicts in Britain as there were in the 1960s, and it is in the top five countries worldwide in terms of heroin consumption.

Ms Young says the government should shift its efforts away from attempting to reduce all drug use towards cutting the harmful effects among the socially excluded.

Policy makers should learn from community projects in Asia where treatment and counselling has been combined with help finding jobs and learning new skills, she says.

'Cannot work'

Ms Young, who set up Simplyworks - a scheme providing employment for addicts, says the increasing amounts of money spent on prohibition have not reduced the amount of drugs on the street.


The key issue is not the availability of drugs, but rather the problematic drug use caused by social exclusion

Rowena Young
The report says the government's own research shows education fails to reduce drug use and treatment fails in two thirds of cases.

It says there is a serious risk that the new National Treatment Agency, with an annual budget rising to nearly half a billion pounds, will simply fund more treatment which on its own cannot work.

'Credible solutions'

Ms Young said: "The war on drugs has been a resounding failure. Rarely in the history of wars have so many achieved so little at such a high cost.

"The key issue is not the availability of drugs, but rather the problematic drug use caused by social exclusion.

"Any credible solutions need to address these causes if they are to have any chance of success"


Many problematic drug users do not come from deprived backgrounds

Home Office Minister Bob Ainsworth

But Home Office minister Bob Ainsworth said: "Let's not go scaring the living daylights out of people.

He told the BBC's Today programme the problem would not be solved "overnight" but added: "It needs to be tackled in a holistic way and that is exactly what the government is trying to do."

Mr Ainsworth conceded some of the analysis in the report was "good stuff" - but he disputed the finding that social deprivation was a major factor behind the increase in drug use.

"Many problematic drug users do not come from deprived backgrounds so there is a need for overall education," he concluded.

More resources

Among the report's key recommendations are:

  • National Treatment Agency to be renamed the National Drugs Rehabilitation Agency - encouraging education, work, enterprise and treatment.
  • More resources for front line police units tackling the causes of drug misuse.
  • Private and voluntary sectors to provide training and work experience for problem drug users.
  • Home office should create 25,000 jobs for drug users within ten years.
  • Reform the benefit system to reduce disincentives to work.

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See also:

06 Nov 01 | UK Politics
12 Mar 02 | UK Politics
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