What we've achieved
This report received widespread international media coverage and has been downloaded over 100,000 times.
The Independent called it 'a startling injection of common sense'. It was described by Nick Clegg, leader of the Liberal Democrats, as 'an extremely important contribution to the debate', and leading drugs information centre Drugscope commented: 'The report marks a watershed in political and public debate on the future of drugs policy.
'Drugs - facing facts', the report of the RSA Commission on Illegal Drugs, Communities and Public Policy, was published in March 2007, and has had a significant impact on the new national drug strategy Drugs: protecting families and communities.
The government's current drug strategy seeks to tackle drug abuse first and foremost as a means of reducing crime. Treatment is most easily accessed through the criminal justice system, and the success of the strategy is measured more in terms of crime reduction than by the more general criterion of 'harm reduction' - harm to drug users and their families as well as harm to communities, the economy and the taxpayer.
Drug use continues to rise - but is all drug use necessarily abuse? Is it a symptom of social decline which we should be seeking to eradicate? Or a fact of life which we simply need to manage? Are public attitudes to drug use really as simple and as hostile as the media say and politicians believe they are?
The RSA Commission proposed that some of the solutions to delivering a coherent drugs policy are to be found where the problems are most directly experienced - in local communities. It also examined the 'drugs problem' beyond the bounds of a political context which makes true open-mindedness very difficult. Its report offers some fresh answers to these most intractable questions.
A broad survey of current policy and practice, the RSA Drugs Commission report made several major recommendations:
- dependence on drugs and other substances should be treated as a chronic health condition and a social problem, not simply a crime or a cause of crime;
- therefore, the lead in drugs policy should move from the Home Office to the Department for Communities and Local Government;
- the Misuse of Drugs Act should be repealed and replaced with a Misuse of Substances Act which incorporates alcohol, tobacco, solvents and over-the-counter and prescription drugs;
- the new legal framework should be based on an index of substance-related harms - physical, social and economic - and drugs policy outcomes should be judged in terms of harms reduced rather than drugs seized or offenders prosecuted;
- more emphasis should be placed on drugs education in primary schools and less in secondary schools, and more resources should be devoted to prevention work outside schools;
- drug users should have better access to a range of options for their treatment, including heroin prescribing (where appropriate), better methadone prescribing, residential rehabilitation, psychological therapies and whole-family treatments.
- The complete list of recommendations is to be found in the Executive Summary.