Cross-government approach promised to tackle drug misuse following independent review

The Home Office.

The Home Secretary has today published the findings of a wide-ranging review into drug misuse, pledging to bring together partners from across the UK government and beyond to address the challenges raised head-on.

The review was commissioned by the Home Office from Professor Dame Carol Black to build the most comprehensive picture possible of this troubling issue.

In her review, Dame Carol provides detailed analysis on the challenges around drug supply and demand, and notes that drug deaths are at an all-time high, the market has become much more violent, and drugs are costing society billions of pounds every year.

Among Dame Carol’s findings are that:

  • the illicit drugs market is a big business, worth an estimated £9.4 billion a year
  • around three million people took drugs in England and Wales last year, with around 300,000 in England taking the most harmful drugs – opiates and/or crack cocaine
  • drug deaths have reached an all-time high and the market has become much more violent – the total costs of drugs to society are estimated to be over £19 billion, which is more than twice the value of the market itself
  • most illegal drugs consumed in the UK are produced abroad – the supply of drugs has been shaped mostly by international forces, the activities of organised crime groups and advances in technology
  • the heroin and crack cocaine retail market has been overtaken by the county lines model, which is driving increased violence in the drugs market and the exploitation of young people and vulnerable drug users

Activity is already in place to tackle issues around drug misuse which will help to address the findings in Dame Carol’s review, including further investment to significantly increase the law enforcement response to county lines.

This is having an impact on county lines, which is why the government has now committed an additional £5 million, on top of the £20 million announced in October, to increase activity against these ruthless gangs.

The government is also boosting police resources with 20,000 new officers over the next three years and bolstering the National Crime Agency (NCA), which works with partners around the world to target criminals who traffic drugs in the UK.

The new Prime Minister-chaired taskforce on crime and justice has also been announced, which will enable the government to be ambitious in reducing crime, including county lines, and drug-related crime such as the acquisitive crime driven by heroin and crack cocaine use.

Minister for Crime, Policing and the Fire Service Kit Malthouse, who is chairing the summit, said:

I’m grateful to Dame Carol for producing such an accomplished piece of research. The findings, which we will discuss today, are troubling and paint a stark picture of how illegal drugs are devastating lives and communities, and fuelling serious violence.

We are already taking tough action to combat county lines and violent crime and to disrupt and prosecute the organised gangs that bring so much misery.

But clearly we all need to do more. Following this valuable review and summit we will take further action at pace, bringing together partners from across government and beyond to address the challenges head on, based on the very best evidence and expertise.

Dame Carol is one of the key participants in a UK-wide drug summit to be held in Glasgow today. She will set out her findings and views on what needs to be done, which will inform the next steps, utilising the most effective measures possible to tackle the harms that drugs are causing across the UK.

The summit will also bring together drug recovery experts, people with personal experience of drug addiction, charities, health care professionals, government ministers and senior police officers.

Health Minister Jo Churchill said:

Time and again we see the tragic impact of drug misuse on people’s health, their lives and the lives of those around them. We must make sure we are offering a holistic approach to treatment, not only looking after physical health in the short-term, but offering sustained mental health support.

Dame Carol’s review is an essential step towards tackling drug addiction and we will build on her work to ensure victims of the illegal drug industry can access the right services.

Scottish Secretary Alister Jack said:

The number of lives lost every year to drugs in Scotland is a huge tragedy. We all need to work together to tackle this terrible scourge, which blights too many lives and harms so many families and communities.

It is great that this UK-wide summit will be held in Glasgow as it means we can bring together independent experts, people with personal experience of drug addiction and politicians from across the country to share their knowledge and understanding and how we can work together in the best way.

Following the drugs review, the Department of Health and Social Care will commission a further drugs review, focused on prevention, treatment and recovery.

Dame Carol will lead this further review with input from experts in the field. It will build on Dame Carol’s work to ensure vulnerable people with substance misuse problems get the support they need to recover and turn their lives around.

It will look at treatment in the community and in prison, and how treatment services work with wider services that enable a person with a drug dependency to achieve and sustain recovery, including mental health, housing, employment, and the criminal justice system.

The Department of Health Social and Care will work closely with the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government, Department for Work and Pensions, and the Ministry of Justice to ensure the review is wide-ranging.

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