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AN ANALYSIS OF UK DRUG POLICY (APRIL 2007)
Summary of report findings:
Britain has an unusually severe drug problem compared with its European neighbours - it has the highest prevalence rates of problem drug use (although use appears to have broadly stabilised), rates which are double those found across Europe.
However the international evidence suggests that drug policy appears to have very limited impact on the overall level of drug use. The authors argue that this is more influenced by wider social, economic and cultural factors.
The government has successfully increased the number of dependent drug users entering treatment. Research suggests that this will have led to substantial reductions in drug use, crime and health problems at the individual level.
Where drug policy makes its most valuable contribution is in reducing the damage and harms to individuals and communities which result from problem drug use. Here UK policy has scored some significant successes, including a level of HIV among injecting drug users lower than in most of Europe. However, there is now emerging evidence which indicates that this area of policy could benefit from re-examination and reinvigoration.
General drug education and prevention efforts in schools and through campaigns appear to make little difference to risk behaviour among the young.
We know very little about the effectiveness and impact of most enforcement efforts either in reducing supply or demand.
There is little transparency in the allocation of resources although it is clear that the lion's share goes to enforcement.
The UK invests very little in independent evaluation of the impact of drug policies (especially enforcement). Unsurprisingly, therefore, the evidence base in the UK is remarkably underdeveloped.