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Friday, August 16, 2013






Our criminal justice approach to drugs has failed. The priority is public health, says new alliance of drug charities

A new Alliance of drug charities launches today in London, calling on the Government to put public health, harm reduction and tackling poverty and exclusion at the heart of UK drug policy.

The Drugs and Health Alliance (DHA) is a group of organisations and individuals who support an evidence-based, public health-led approach to dealing with illegal drugs. An overwhelming body of evidence shows that the criminal justice-led approach to illicit drugs at home and abroad increases harms associated with their production, supply and use, whilst public health-led approaches consistently reduce harm. For many years there has been reluctance from the voluntary sector to criticise policy, because of their reliance on government funding; problems that are perpetuated by the Government’s failure to conduct an evidence-based review of the progress of the UK drug strategy and its failure to consult with informed public opinion.

In 2007, the UK ten-year drug strategy comes to an end and a window of opportunity opens. DHA supporters want to be included in the policy development process to assist in putting in place an effective strategy for the next decade.

Where:
Romney Room
Royal Society of Arts (RSA)
8 John Adam Street
London WC2N 6EZ

When:
Thursday 3 May, 11:00 am 2007


To attend:


Danny Kushlick (Director, Transform Drug Policy Foundation) spokesperson for DHA said:


“Ten years ago the Government brought in an ex police officer (Keith Hellawell) as drug czar, to head up the UK drug strategy. A decade down the line, the evidence of the failure of our enforcement-led approach is all too apparent. In no other area of policy-making would we dream of criminalising recreation on the one hand and disadvantage and distress on the other. DHA is calling for the upcoming drug strategy to reallocate resources away from enforcement and towards a public health approach to drugs. It is truly criminal that the Government has not seen fit to publicly audit the enforcement approach to drugs and compare it with health interventions.”

Professor Gerry Stimson (Executive Director of IHRA) said:

"This government's first war was a war on drugs – one that rumbles on with a growing role call of casualties. The mistake was to move responsibility for drugs policy to the Home Office rather than the appropriate health agency, and to downgrade health targets whilst focussing almost exclusively on crime reduction. It's time to refocus drugs policy, and get back to dealing with the evidence of what works at reducing harm for users and the wider community."

David Liddell (Scottish Drugs Forum) said:

“The UK has one of the highest drug problems per head of population in Europe. It’s therefore crucially important that any new strategy recognises the causal factors of poverty and exclusion as an integral aspect that we must address if we are to make a substantial impact on the problem in the years ahead.”

Martin Blakeborough (Director Kaleidoscope Project and member of the Advisory Council on Misuse of Drugs) said:

“Kaleidoscope believes the health of drug users must be the priority and therefore welcomes the launch of DHA. It is clear that in the past ten years the priority has been community safety at the expense of the basic health care and human rights of illicit drug users. The upcoming review of UK strategy provides the opportunity to change this.”

Sebastian Saville (Executive Director Release) said:

“It is becoming increasingly apparent that more and more mainstream groups now readily accept that many of the harms associated with illicit drug use are in fact caused or exacerbated by the present legal system, rather than the drugs themselves. The ‘crime reduction agenda’ has meant that civil liberties and public health have increasingly taken a back seat in drug policy. It is time for a change.”


Daren Garratt (The Alliance) said:

“The Alliance is proud to be a partner, supporter and contributing member of the Drugs and Health Alliance. The Government's 10-Year Drug Strategy and its continued focus on the target-driven criminalisation of drug use and drug users, has only proved to increase the harm, stigma and alienation experienced by one of the most marginalised sectors of our communities. We welcome the work of the DHA and call for a pragmatic, non-discriminatory, evidence based drug policy that reestablishes the holistic health and social needs of the individual drug user as its core objective.”

Paul Crawford Walker (SHA) said:

“As a public health practitioner the launch of DHA is very welcome as the public health community has long realised that the only sensible approach to drug misuse policy is one which involves a public health perspective and framework rather than a repressive criminal justice one. I am confident that the Alliance will make a real difference to how drug misuse is regarded and dealt with in this country."

Debra Lapthorne, Director of Public Health, Plymouth said:

“Plymouth Public Health Development Unit is pleased to be contributing to the DHA. We welcome the inclusive approach the DHA represents and look forward to a time when some of the most marginalised and stigmatized groups in our communities can enjoy sustainable well being. The Public Health approach which the DHA embodies gives a real opportunity to deliver drug policy based on sound evidence rather than fear and prejudice.”

Neil Hunt (UKHRA) said:

“The 10 year strategy has brought important improvements but leaves much undone. For a supposedly 'evidence-based' drug strategy we have a dearth of evidence. There is an urgent need to examine and evaluate more progressive approaches to preventing drug problems that move beyond the current, crude enforcement approach. At the same time, we need to strengthen and refine the assorted harm reduction-based treatment approaches that have been shown to work."
Notes to editors

Media contact: Danny Kushlick 07970 174747

For further info: www.drugshealthalliance.net


Member organisations:

The Alliance, the Beckley Foundation, the International Harm Reduction Association, the Kaleidoscope Project, Release, Transform Drug Policy Foundation, the Socialist Health Alliance, Plymouth Public Health Development Unit and the UK Harm Reduction Alliance.

Individuals:
Dr Brian Iddon MP, chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Drugs Misuse Group and a member of the Science and Technology Select Committee.

Drugs and Health Alliance Consensus Statement

The Drugs and Health Alliance is a group of organisations and individuals who support an evidence-based, public health-led approach to dealing with illegal drugs. An overwhelming body of evidence shows that the criminal justice-led approach to illicit drugs at home and abroad increases harms associated with their production, supply and use, whilst public health-led approaches consistently reduce harm.

For many years there has been reluctance from the voluntary sector to criticise policy, because of their reliance on government funding; problems that are perpetuated by the Government's failure to conduct an evidence based review of the progress of the UK drug strategy and its failure to consult with informed public opinion.

In 2007, the UK ten-year drug strategy comes to an end and a window of opportunity opens. DHA supporters want to be included in the policy development process to assist in putting in place an effective strategy for the next decade.


1998-2007 An overwhelming criminal justice approach:
  • Prioritisation of crime reduction over harm reduction
  • Over-reliance on enforcement as a route of entry into treatment has operated to the detriment of many problematic users
  • Enactment of Drugs Act 2005 and Serious and Organised Crime Act 2005
  • Commitment to inflexible and outdated UN Conventions on Drugs and harshly enforced domestic drug laws has created and exacerbated harm
  • The consequence of which is punishment and stigmatisation of some of the most vulnerable and excluded members of society
2008-2017 Putting health first:
Drugs are a complex international, social issue that demand a strategic management approach, not a blunt criminal justice one. We believe that a comprehensive, joined up approach to drug policy development and implementation can only be realised if the drugs brief is taken out of its almost exclusive position in the Home Office, enabling us to develop a policy that is truly cross-departmental and placed within a public health framework. This shift would:
  • Put public health and harm reduction at the heart of UK drug policy
  • Facilitate the development and implementation of evidence based strategies that are more effective at reducing harm
  • Deliver improved value for money on drug strategy budgets, as measured against key public health and criminal justice indicators
  • Enable more effective cross departmental planning, less shaped by emotive, politicised criminal justice agendas (including health bodies sharing crime reduction performance targets with criminal justice bodies)
  • Reduce health inequalities and, by extension, reduce deprivation, improve life chances and reduce offending (all of which are Home Office objectives)
  • Reduce some of the counterproductive effects of the international and domestic drugs enforcement strategy
This would, in turn:
  • Improve public health outcomes and protect the human rights of drug users
  • Enable us to better address the social issues that underlie most problematic use
  • Encourage effective efforts to reduce the progression from use to problematic use
  • Direct resources into helping some of the most vulnerable and excluded members of society
DHA is calling on Government to;

  • Prioritise public health goals
  • Implement a truly cross-departmental, public health-led strategy and place the lead role in the relevant health agencies
  • Commission an independent audit of outcomes against expenditure comparing public health with criminal justice approaches
  • Hold an official cross-departmental consultation on the efficacy of criminal justice and public health approaches
  • Reallocate drug strategy expenditure from criminal justice to public health
DHA also calls for:

A quadripartite select committee to be convened to conduct an enquiry into UK and international drug policy, the National Audit Office to conduct a value for money study of enforcement outcomes and the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs to review the drug strategy and suggest reforms.

What we plan to do:

The DHA will produce briefings and discussion documents, hold seminars and brief policy makers, press and voluntary sector organisations on the benefits of an evidence-based, public health-led approach to dealing with drugs.

What you can do:

  • Join the DHA by signing up your organisation to thegrowing list of members - This can be done by contacting the DHA Secretariat on (0117) 941 5810.
  • Become active within your field by campaigning for, and promoting the work and goals of the DHA.
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