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Breaking the Cycle of Drug Addiction
A drug-free life style is at the heart of the government’s 2010 Drug Strategy but how realistic is it?
The government is consulting on a joined up drugs strategy. The aim is to tackle the problem alongside alcohol abuse, child protection and other social deprivation – part of ‘Building the Big Society’ outlined by the Coalition government. This vision develops the key themes and objectives of preventing drug use, strengthening enforcement and the legal framework while supporting recovery to break the cycle of drug addiction.
Peter Grogan, Head of Business Crime and Regulatory at JMW Solicitors LLP comments;
“Education coupled with absolute clarity is the key. The strategy needs to send out clear, unequivocal signals. For example, if the government’s view is that mephedrone is dangerous then it ought to say so with as little ambiguity as possible and not fall into the trap of vacillating, like recent governments have done about the categorisation of cannabis, which simply confuse and dilute the impact of any message. I am currently defending a young man who is under investigation for supplying mephedrone via a website and his position is far from clear and it appears that both the police and the Crown Prosecution Service remain unsure of their legal ground.”
The consultation is an early opportunity for drugs sector organisations and other key partners to influence the development of the new drug strategy and it is aimed at a wide audience including the public. Among other aims the government wants to ensure that the UK has an effective statutory framework “able to respond to emerging threats”. In the meantime it proposes to introduce a system of temporary bans on new psychoactive substances or so called “legal highs” and to curb availability of other emerging substances. Offences will apply to trafficking and supply and not simple possession.
The proposal "to strengthen enforcement by targeting all points along the drug supply chain" is, frankly, a statement of the obvious, says Grogan. “The government can hardly be congratulated for originality. How else would a law enforcement agency go about preventing a drug problem?”
According to a report on the use of drugs among young people published on 10 July this year by the NHS Information Centre for Health and Social Care both smoking and drinking alcohol were associated with drug taking. The report found that both regular and occasional smokers were more likely to have taken drugs than non-smokers and compared with non-drinkers, pupils who had drunk alcohol were more likely to take drugs as are pupils who had truanted or been excluded from school. It states: “If a pupil has done one of these, he or she has an increased likelihood of having done one or both of the others. All three become increasingly prevalent with age" (see further ‘Smoking, drinking and drug use among young people in England in 2009’).
It is no surprise that nicotine users have a higher propensity to experiment with drug use than non-smokers, says Grogan: “The tried, tested and trusted approach of the government over the years to tobacco abuse, for example ‘death’ warnings on cigarette packets coupled with public information adverts and photographic material showing diseased lungs coupled with an attempt to educate tobacco users is the preferred approach. Only five or so decades ago smoking was thought of as trendy, fashionable and in some contexts sexually attractive. The question is how will this vision fare under government spending cuts?”
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