A report commissioned for today's launch of the new UK Drug Policy Commission has found that current Government drugs policy has had a very limited impact on drugs use. I find this so desperately sad. Drugs really are the scourge of society and are the basis of so many other problems in our communities ranging from gun and knife crime to shoplifting in order to raise funds for the next fix.
I remember from my days working for Shadow Home Secretary David Davis we had many people write to us telling us their own family experience, which quite often started with people smoking cannabis and either developing schizophrenia or leading onto harder drugs. Some of the letters were heart-wrenching and were often read in frustration because Government policy was failing to prevent or deter drug use - particularly amongst the young.
The report today confirms other reports that the UK has the highest levels of problem drug use and the second-highest rate of drug-related deaths in Europe. The total value of the UK market for illicit drugs is estimated at £5bn a year and with around one fifth of all people arrested thought to be dependent on heroin, the total cost of drug-related crime in England and Wales alone is estimated at more than £13bn.
The report also says that imprisonment of drug offenders is failing to have a positive effect on drug use and calls for further government effort to be focused on the development of treatment and harm reduction programmes, which have been shown to have an impact on the levels of crime, ill-health and death linked to drugs. This is what the Conservatives have been saying for many years. We researched the issue at length before the last election, spoke to families and the very many excellent drug treatment charities. It seemed a no-brainer to us that the impact of proper rehabilitation and treatment for drug offenders would be positive.
If it takes an independent Group to finally get the Government to listen and do something to tackle drug use then so be it - but if we are to prevent future generations from taking drugs then let's hope that policy is changed sooner rather than later.