The government is driving a ‘devastating public health crisis’, says drug policy reformer

Sam Woolfe

The Tories have stayed committed to their ‘war on drugs’ policy, despite the fact that it’s not protecting people or saving lives. And now, under a Conservative-led government, drug-related deaths have reached a record high, according to new figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

The figures 

The ONS data shows that there were 3,756 drug-related deaths in 2017. This is a 37% increase since the Conservatives came into power in 2010. Deaths related to morphine or heroin have risen by 30% while those involving cocaine have soared by 200%.

Health issues relating to drug use have also been increasing. As The Canary previously reported, there is an HIV outbreak in Scotland, related to heroin use.

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The effects of government policy

The National AIDS Trust (NAT) argued that the government’s opposition to drug consumption rooms (DCRs) has made the situation in Scotland worse.

Niamh Eastwood, executive director of drug policy reform group Release, says the government’s position on DCRs also makes it difficult to tackle the problem of drug-related deaths. She argues the government is:

driving this devastating public health crisis by punishing people for their drug use instead of implementing compassionate, evidence-based policies.

Eastwood adds that austerity is playing a role too:

The government has also slashed funding to essential treatment services, leaving thousands of people left at the mercy of a postcode lottery as to whether their local authorities will provide the support that they need.

Theresa May, on the other hand, is committed to what she sees as tough law enforcement. As she commented back in November 2017, “it is right that we continue to fight the war against drugs,” due to “the incredible damage [drugs] can do to families and the individuals concerned”.

David Jamieson, the West Midlands Police & Crime Commissioner, said these figures on drug-related deaths are “tragic”. If we want to reduce harm, he believes, then offering drug testing services should be part of the solution.

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