Labour’s drugs policy is £10bn “costly flop”

The Government has wasted £10 billion of taxpayers’ money on a fruitless ‘harm reduction’ approach to drugs, according to a new report.

The numbers of addicts emerging from Government treatment programmes are at the same level as if there had been no treatment at all.

Harm reduction is an approach which parks addicts on prescribed substitutes rather than focusing on rehabilitation and abstinence.

The Government’s strategy is trapping people in “state-sponsored addiction”, says Kathy Gyngell, a drugs expert and the author of the report for the Centre for Policy Studies.

She wants the Government to do more to stop drug use, rather than simply addressing the harm it causes.

“Despite the £10 billion spent on the War on Drugs, the numbers emerging from government treatment programmes are at the same level as if there had been no treatment programme at all”, said Miss Gyngell in her report.

The report is equally critical of Frank, the Government’s drugs information service for young people, which recently hit the headlines when advisers were caught telling 13-year-olds that cannabis is less harmful than alcohol.

The report calls for the Government to “abandon the harm reduction approach”, “develop treatment support aimed at abstinence and rehabilitation” and “include a far tougher, better-funded enforcement programme to reduce the supply of drugs”.

The UK has the most liberal drugs system in Europe, with rising levels of drug use and falling numbers of prosecutions, the report asserts.

The report states that more than £1.5 billion a year is spent by the Government in attempts to combat the drugs problem, and more than £800 million of that is spent on treatment programmes.

It says: “While the UK spends the majority of its drug budget on its so-called treatment programmes, both the Netherlands and Sweden spend most of their drugs budget on prevention and enforcement.

“Their drugs problems are a half and a third of the size of the UK respectively.”

Last year research released by Fergus Ewing MSP, the Scottish Minister for Community Safety, revealed that investing in drug rehabilitation programmes to help people abstain from drug use could save the Scottish economy millions of pounds.

Earlier in the year, Scottish ministers said they planned to focus less on harm reduction approaches in future and invest instead in recovery programmes.

Miss Gyngell’s report also shows the UK as the leading European nation in recreational drug use.

It emerged last month that the number of cannabis addicts receiving NHS treatment doubled in the three years after the law was relaxed by the Government in 2004.

And despite claims that cannabis use is falling and the Government’s recent decision to tighten the law by returning it to Class B, Britain still tops the European league for cannabis use among schoolchildren.