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expert reaction to report calling for decriminalisation of drugs – Taking a New Line on Drugs

The Royal Society for Public Health and the Faculty of Public Health have released a report which discusses the current and possible strategies for dealing with legal and illegal drugs and calls for decriminalisation.

 

Dr Peter Byrne, Royal College of Psychiatrists’ Associate Registrar for Public Mental Health said:

“This is a timely, well-argued report that compares illegal drugs with the considerable harm inflicted on society by alcohol and tobacco. Evidence supports decriminalising drug misuse by individuals – moving from a criminal justice system that fails them and us, and towards treatments that promote health and reduce harm. This is not to argue that toxic, life-wrecking drugs are made legal. We are concerned that drug related deaths are rising in the UK, reflecting policy failures and ongoing major reductions in addictions’ services. Some will chase headlines from their findings – the challenge to us all is to get the policies right and accessible services to people who need them.”

 

Prof. Peter Anderson, Professor of Substance Use, Policy and Practice, Newcastle University, said:

“These recommendations are fully in line with the conclusions of the five-year European Commission-funded, £8 million, five-year ALICE RAP project I coordinated, which examined the place of drug policy in modern European Society.

“Using a well-being perspective to look at all aspects of drug-related harm finds that the many adverse side effects of drug policy, including violence and criminalization, outweigh any potential health benefits.

“The ALICE RAP project, which included over 100 scientists from Europe, and at least 20 from the UK, concluded ‘humans are hard-wired to seek out many drugs. Although part of defence mechanisms by plants to stop being eaten, humans have used drugs for other benefits. For example, both cannabis and nicotine kill intestinal worms, and people in Africa frequently use these drugs unconsciously to treat the worm infestations – when the worms are gone, they stop using the drugs’.

“Hard-wiring suggests prohibition policies are doomed to failure, and shifting responsibility of drugs from criminal justice to health, with proper regulation, is the way to go.”

The main science findings of ALICE RAP can be found at http://www.alicerap.eu/images/A-Debate_Science_Summary_final_March_2016.pdf

 

Prof. David Nutt, The Edmond J Safra Chair and Head of the Centre for Neuropsychopharmacology, Imperial College London, said:

“I fully support the recommendations in this report. The current government approach of blindly prosecuting drug users, rather than trying to reduce the rising tide of drug harms, particularly deaths from alcohol, heroin and cocaine, in fact leads to more damage to individuals and society – and more costs to the taxpayer.”

 

Taking a New Line on Drugs’ published by the Royal Society for Public Health and supported by the Faculty of Public Health published on Thursday 16th June. 

 

Declared interests

Dr Byrne: None received

Prof. Anderson: None declared

Prof. Nutt: “No conflict.”

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