The Government's drugs policy has been a "resounding failure", a think-tank
set up by Tony Blair claims.

The number of addicts and overdose deaths had soared in recent years,
narcotics were more easily available than ever, and drugs education had had
only a limited impact, the study said. Rowena Young, the report's author,
said: "The war on drugs has been a resounding failure. Rarely in the
history of wars have so many achieved so little at such a high cost."

Ms Young's report for the Foreign Policy Centre said ministers had not
recognised that the cause of drug abuse was poverty. The criticism of the
policies of the Government - and its predecessors - is embarrassing, coming
from a group so close to the Prime Minister. The Foreign Policy Centre was
set up in 1998 by Mr Blair, who is its patron, and Robin Cook, during his
time as Foreign Secretary, to explore the results of globalisation.

Ms Young, a director of a drug treatment agency, said there were now 500
times as many drug addicts in Britain as there were in the 1960s. Britain
was in the top five countries worldwide in terms of heroin consumption, she

The report, From War to Work: drug treatment, social inclusion and
enterprise, published yesterday, said the Government should shift efforts
from trying to cut drug use towards reducing the damage to the socially

The unemployed were seven times more likely to use hard drugs than people
in work, and the poorest areas of Britain accounted for 30 times as many
drug-related hospital emergencies as the richest ones, the report said.
"The key issue is not the availability of drugs, but rather the problematic
drug use caused by social exclusion," said Ms Young. Policy makers should
learn from Asia where treatment and counselling had been combined with help
finding jobs and learning skills, said the report.

To support her argument that Britain was losing the drugs war, Ms Young
said that since the 1980s the number of addicts had doubled every four
years; in 1998, there were nearly 3,500 drug-related deaths in Britain. The
Office of National Statistics recorded a 110 per cent rise in heroin or
morphine-related deaths between 1995 and 2000to 754 per year. The number of
deaths linked to cocaine quadrupled to 87 a year. There are about 270,000
registered drug dependents - 540 times the number registered in the 1960s.

The report said the Government's own research showed education had failed
to reduce drug use, while treatment had failed in two-thirds of cases.

Among the recommendations are a holistic approach that focuses on outcomes
not inputs. This would mean scrapping targets for reduction of drug use and
concentrating instead on reducing harm. It also called for more resources
for police tackling drug misuse, and for private and voluntary sectors to
train and provide work experience for users.

Robert Ainsworth,a Home Office minister, told the BBC's Today programme the
problem would not be solved overnight. He said: "It needs to be tackled in
a holistic way and that is exactly what the Government is trying to do." He
disputed the finding that social deprivation was to blame. "Many
problematic drug users do not come from deprived backgrounds, so there is a
need for overall education," he said.

Pubdate: Fri, 29 Mar 2002
Source: Independent (UK)
Copyright: 2002 Independent Newspapers (UK) Ltd.
Author: Jason Bennetto, Crime Correspondent