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Major Studies of Drugs and Drug Policy
Canadian Senate Special Committee on Illegal Drugs
Volume 3 - Public Policy Options

Chapter 20 - Public Policy In Other Countries - UK

United Kingdom[1][82]

Ten-year strategy to battle drugs

In 1998, at the same time as the newly elected Labour government announced an imposing crime reduction program, it adopted a 10‑year strategy, based on a similar model, to combat drug abuse in the UK.[2][83] The strategy has four objectives:

··          To help young people resist drug misuse in order to allow them to achieve their full potential. The key objective is to reduce the number of people under age 25 reporting use of illegal drugs in the past month and previous year. The program relies on education in schools and prevention efforts focusing on young people at risk.

··          To reduce levels of repeat offending among drug-misusing offenders, by giving them the opportunity to take appropriate treatment. To do this, various treatment options were added to the stages of arrest, probation and court appearance. In addition, new drug treatment and testing orders will be made available in all courts in England and Wales. This scheme allows a court, with the offender's consent, to make an order requiring the offender to undergo treatment either in parallel with another community order, or as a sentence in its own right. In addition, the program known as Carats (Counselling, Assessment, Referral, Advice and Throughcare) is available in all England and Wales prisons, and additional prison-based rehabilitation programs are planned.

··          Acknowledging that waiting times are one of the main problems for people requiring treatment and that the supply of treatment services is well below demand, the government plan provides for the creation of a National Treatment Agency which will be responsible for the provision of drug treatment and the delivery of high-quality services. Harm reduction strategies will also be increased.

··          To reduce access to drugs among five-to-16‑year old children, increase the seizure of Class A drugs and increase assets seized from traffickers.


Ambitious targets relating to the drug strategy have been set out in the Anti-Drugs Co-ordinator’s First Annual Report and National Plan, including:

··          halving the numbers of young people using illegal drugs (especially heroin and cocaine);

··          halving the levels of re-offending by drug-misusing offenders;

··          doubling the numbers of drug misusers in treatment; and

··          halving the availability of drugs on the streets (especially heroin and cocaine).


Although the 10‑year strategy is supposed to focus on the most harmful drugs (heroin and cocaine), the number of people fined, cautioned and in some cases jailed for possession of cannabis still exceeds 100,000 a year.[3][84]



[1][82]  This section draws largely on the research report prepared for the Committee by the Library of Parliament: G. Lafrenière, (2001) National Drug Policy: United Kingdom. Ottawa: Library of Parliament, prepared for the Senate Special Committee on Illegal Drugs; available online at www.parl.gc.ca/illegaldrugs.asp.

[2][83]  Tackling Drugs to Build a Better Britain.

[3][84]  "Drug Laws: the debate nobody wants", The Guardian, May 14, 2001.

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