Govt to tackle £10.7bn cost of drug abuse
14 July 2017 National News
Former legal highs and so-called “chemsex” drugs are being targeted as part of a Government crackdown on drug abuse.
Latest figures show drugs cost the UK £10.7bn a year in policing, healthcare and crime.
Although the number of drug users has fallen from 10.5% of 16 to 59-year-olds in England and Wales a decade ago to just over 8%, emerging trends like the use of former legal high Spice as well as “chemsex” drugs, which are used to enhance sexual activity, are causing concern.
The drugs carry serious mental and physical health risks, including the spread of blood borne viruses and infections.
Ministers say a more joined up approach will be taken to tackling the causes and effects of drug abuse.
Home Secretary Amber Rudd, who will chair a new cross-government Drug Strategy board, said: “Since becoming Home Secretary I have seen first-hand how drugs can destroy lives. I am determined to confront the scale of this issue and prevent drug misuse devastating our families and communities.
“This Government has driven a tough law enforcement response in the UK and at our borders, but this must go hand in hand with prevention and recovery. This new strategy brings together police, health, community and global partners to clamp down on the illicit drug trade, safeguard the most vulnerable, and help those affected to turn their lives around.”
Amos Singh Dhami, 40, is in recovery from an addiction to cocaine that began 20 years ago.
“The consequences of my using were divorce, lost my driving licence, impact on my work, my family life, health – I was very close to death when I came in to treatment, my liver and kidneys were nearly packed up. It just affected every part of my life” he says.
“Understanding the problem is massive. I don’t think we have enough understanding about this illness. The consequences from it are crime, are health.
“It’s the aftercare programme as well. The rehousing, the mental side, the job opportunities, everything really.”
Health services will be required to check on the progress of recovering addicts after 12 months and prison officers will be given more support to help inmates tackle addiction.
National Police Chiefs’ Council Lead for Drugs, Commander Simon Bray, said: “Illicit drugs feature in so many types of harm and crime; they are frequently used as a commodity by organised criminals and gangs, often linked to violence and exploitation of the vulnerable. Drugs are the root cause behind countless burglaries, thefts and robberies, and are often associated with anti-social behaviour and public concern.
“The Government has set out their new strategy for tackling the complex harms and issues associated with drugs and police will play our part in delivering it.”
The strategy has attracted some criticism, with the Liberal Democrats warning it will not work.
Their health spokesman, Norman Lamb, said: “It totally fails to address a key problem: treating drug dependence as a criminal justice issue rather than a health one.”
Martin Powell, from the Transform Drug Policy Foundation, added: “It won’t protect young people and communities because it is the same failed old recipe of criminalisation and underfunding that has led to record numbers of vulnerable people dying.”