£1bn used to tackle drugs may have had little effect

The Government has no idea if the £1 billion spent trying to tackle problems caused by heroin and crack users, has worked, according to a new report.

Attempts to cut drug use among young people have had little impact and the extent of Class A drug use among under-24s has remained stable, the report says.


The report, commissioned by the House of Commons Public Accounts Committee, disclosed that only 15,000 of 165,000 problem drug users receiving treatment in the community last year were discharged free of dependency.

The committee said: “The Government spends £1.2 billion a year on measures aimed at tackling problem drug use, yet does not know what overall effect this spending is having.”


It said the Government’s failure to evaluate the overall impact of the £1 billion spent was “unacceptable”.

Press reports indicate that six years ago there were 330,000 heroin and crack users who cost society about £15 billion annually, of which £13.9 billion was drug-linked criminal behaviour.

The latest report said that the Home Office did not know whether a cross-Whitehall strategy launched in 2008 had reduced the estimated cost of crimes committed by problem drug users.

It also could not “prove a causal link between the measures in the strategy and the levels of offending by problem drug users”.


The committee added: “Given the public money spent on the strategy and the cost to society, we find it unacceptable that the department has not carried out sufficient evaluation of the programme.”

Edward Leigh, the Conservative chairman of the committee, said: “Drug-related offending is inflicting a trail of misery on our communities. Preventing the young from descending into problem drug use is an essential part of bringing down the number of problem drug users in future.”


In December 2008 the Scottish Government said investment in drug rehabilitation programmes could save millions of pounds.

Figures suggested that helping addicts come off drugs completely could see a £9.50 benefit to the economy for every £1 spent.

According to the study the savings would be made in treating addicts, methadone prescriptions, crime reductions and spending on prisons and legal procedures.

The figures, based on research carried out in England and Wales, showed that each of Scotland’s 52,000 drug addicts was costing the country around £50,000.

Investing £94 million in recovery programmes over three years could save Scotland £893 million.

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