Home > Drugs: breaking the cycle.

Pike, Brigid (2013) Drugs: breaking the cycle. Drugnet Ireland, Issue 45, Spring 2013, p. 6.

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On 10 December 2012 the UK Home Affairs Select Committee published its report on the illicit drugs issue.1 It was the first such parliamentary review of drug policy as a whole since 2002. It reveals a shift in opinion among some key policy makers, away from an enforcement-led strategy towards a more nuanced drug policy. The key recommendations are listed below.

Drug education in schools
‘The evidence suggests that early intervention should be an integral part of any policy which is to be effective in breaking the cycle of drug dependency. We recommend that the next version of the drugs strategy contain a clear commitment to an effective drugs education and prevention programme, including behaviour-based interventions.’ (para. 75)
Residential rehabilitation treatment
‘Different treatment régimes will work for different patients. It is clear that, for some people, residential rehabilitation is the most effective treatment, backed by proper aftercare in the community. We recommend that the Government expand the provision of residential rehabilitation places. In addition, we recommend the Government review the guidance for referrals to residential rehabilitation so that inappropriate referrals are minimised.’ (para. 94)
‘Outcomes which range from 60% of patients overcoming their dependence to just 20% suggest that the quality of provision is very variable. We recommend that, in line with the publication of certain outcome statistics for National Health Service providers, publicly-funded residential rehabilitation providers should be required to publish detailed outcome statistics so that patients and clinicians can make better-informed choices of provider.’ (para. 96)
Opioid substitution treatment
‘Policy makers should … continue to keep sight of a greater emphasis on buprenorphine relative to methadone prescription to lead to better patient and societal outcomes.’ (para. 100)
Prescription drug dependence
‘Prescription drugs are becoming more widely available, through diversion of prescriptions and unregulated sales via the internet. Having seen first-hand the scale and impact of prescription drug use in Florida, we recommend that the Government publish an action plan of how it intends to deal with this particular issue as part of the next version of the drug strategy to prevent the situation here in the UK deteriorating further.’ (para. 122)
Royal Commission on how to reduce drug-related harm
‘Our predecessor Committee's recommendation for an independent assessment of the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 was rejected on the basis that it gives effect to the UK's international obligations in this area. That is not, in our view, a compelling reason for refusing to review our own domestic legislative framework, particularly given the growing concern about the current international regime in many producer nations. … We are not suggesting that the UK should act unilaterally in these matters, but our Government's position must be informed by a thorough understanding of the global situation and possible alternative policies.’
‘… We recommend the establishment of a Royal Commission to consider the best ways of reducing the harm caused by drugs in an increasingly globalised world. In order to avoid an overly long, overly expensive review process, we recommend that such a commission be set up immediately and be required to report in 2015. (paras 131 and 132)
New psychoactive substances
‘The market in new psychoactive drugs is changing quickly, too quickly for the current system of temporary banning orders to keep up. … We recommend that the Government issue guidance to Local Authority trading standards departments, citizens advice bureaux and other interested parties on the action which might be taken under existing trading standards and consumer protection legislation to tackle the sale of these untested substances.’ (para. 170)
Drugs in prisons
‘We recommend that the Ministry of Justice introduce mandatory drug-testing for all prisoners arriving at and leaving prison whether on conviction, transfer or release. Tests should be carried out for both illegal and prescription drugs. This should be in addition to the existing random testing regime, the principal purpose of which is deterrence. The information obtained from such a test would be very valuable in evaluating the effectiveness of the current systems in place and identifying those prisons which have a serious problem.’ (para. 211)
Evidence-based policy
‘We were impressed by what we saw of the Portuguese depenalised system. It had clearly reduced public concern about drug use in that country, and was supported by all political parties and the police. … Following the legalisation of marijuana in the states of Washington and Colorado and the proposed state monopoly of cannabis production and sale in Uruguay, we recommend that the Government fund a detailed research project to monitor the effects of each legalisation system to measure the effectiveness of each and the overall costs and benefits of cannabis legalisation.’ (paras 243 and 248)
‘We recommend the Government allocate ring fenced funding to drugs policy research going forward.’ (para. 257)
Need for debate
‘We recommend that the Government instigate a public debate on all of the alternatives to the current drugs policy, as part of the proposed Royal Commission.’ (para. 260)
Following the release of the report, Prime Minister David Cameron rejected the recommendation with regard to a Royal Commission. In contrast, Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg committed his party to pledging a major review of how to tackle the drug problem in its 2015 election manifesto.
1. Home Affairs Committee (2012) Drugs: breaking the cycle. Ninth report of House of Commons Home Affairs Committee. London: The Stationery Office. www.drugsandalcohol.ie/18933/
Item Type
Publication Type
Irish-related, International, Open Access, Article
Drug Type
Substances (not alcohol/tobacco)
Intervention Type
Harm reduction
Issue Title
Issue 45, Spring 2013
April 2013
Page Range
p. 6
Health Research Board
Issue 45, Spring 2013
Accession Number
HRB (Electronic Only)

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