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Wednesday, 16th January 2013

UK: Towards a Safer Drug Policy: Challenges and Opportunities arising from ‘legal highs’

Source: All-Party Parliamentary Group for Drug Policy Reform (UK)

From Executive Summary:

For forty years the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 has formed the corner stone of drug policy in Britain. The emergence of new psychoactive substances (‘legal highs’) during the past fifteen years or so has challenged the drug control system. The arrival in 2012 of a new psychoactive substance on the market, on average, every six days raises questions about how best to protect young people from unknown and unsafe drugs. The Government is considering this challenge and we hope this Inquiry report will make a helpful contribution to their deliberations....

The focus of this Inquiry has been new psychoactive substances. However, the legal framework for traditional drugs and its consequences profoundly affects the use of new substances. Our witnesses repeatedly referred across to the impact of the traditional drug market upon the demand for NPS. For example, because ecstasy is a controlled substance, young people obtain it from illegal drug dealers who often mix it with dangerous substances. During periods when ecstasy is particularly contaminated, young people turn to a new psychoactive drug which mimics ecstasy. If government wants to reduce the use of NPS, any policy must take account of the interaction between the markets for traditional and ‘new’ drugs.

The All-Party Parliamentary Group is mindful that psychoactive substances can be very harmful particularly to young people who are also the age group most likely to be involved with drugs.

If we are to minimise the harms, appropriate controls are necessary. A clear conclusion from this work, however, has been that banning drug use does not materially affect the overall level of demand for drugs. Drug policies which criminalise young people generate higher levels of unemployment, homelessness and relationship problems, and cost the taxpayer considerable sums.

+ Direct link to report from this page (PDF; 1.2 MB)


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Having begun his career in academic libraries, Adrian Janes has subsequently worked extensively in public libraries, chiefly in enquiry work as an Information Services librarian. In this role he has had particular responsibility for information from both the UK Government and the European Union. He wrote a detailed report on sources for the latter which was published by FreePint in 2007, and has contributed articles to FreePint and ResourceShelf. He is involved in training in information literacy and the use of online reference resources.

A Contributing Editor to DocuTicker, he also write reviews for Pennyblackmusic.

Adrian can be reached at adrian.janes@freepint.com

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