Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Slow movement toward drug sanity in the UK

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Phillip Smith reports in the Drug War Chronicles:

The use of drugs should be decriminalized, with the least harmful substances regulated and sold in shops, a group of British parliamentarians said in a report released over the weekend. The All-Party Parliamentary Group on Drug Policy reform made its findings in the report Toward a Safer Drug Policy: Challenges and Opportunities Arising from ‘Legal Highs’.

The report said that the 40-year-old Misuse of Drugs Act needs fundamental reform because it criminalizes young people for drug use, leaving them with reduced life prospects, while creating profits for illegal drug dealers. Instead, “low risk” drugs should be handled like cigarettes, with legal sales and warning labels, while higher risk drugs should be decriminalized, the peers found.

“The Misuse of Drugs Act is counterproductive in attempting to reduce drug addiction and other drug harms to young people,” said group chair Baroness Meacher.

The group took submissions from 31 experts and organizations, including the government’s Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs and the Association of Chief Police Officers. It called for the classification of drugs to be removed from the realm of politics and instead be based on scientific evidence.

This is the third report in recent months to call for fundamental changes in British drug policy and a move away from a prohibitionist approach to a public health one. The UK Drug Policy Commission released its Final Report in October 2012. The Home Affairs Select Committee published the findings of its Inquiry into Drugs in December 2012. All three reports make a strong case for changing British drug policy to better reduce harms posed by drugs to our population, and to take a greater consideration of evidence in doing so.

There is little sign Prime Minister Cameron is listening — despite his own past support for legalization. Still, Cameron’s ally in the governing coalition, Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg has been paying heed, saying he could support drug decriminalization, and that is causing tensions over drug policy at Whitehall.

Note this ranking at ProCon.org of drugs by overall harm they cause—and how drug laws seem totally unrelated to the effects of drugs. As the article at the link states:

The British peer-reviewed journal Lancet published a study titled “Drug Harms in the UK: A Multicriteria Decision Analysis” on Nov. 1, 2010 which ranked 20 drugs from alcohol to marijuana to tobacco based on harm factors.

Individual harm (such as dependence, mortality, and impairment of mental functioning) was considered under “harm to users,” while “harm to others” (such as crime, environmental damage, and international damage) took into account the number and extent of others harmed by individual drug use. The two charts below illustrate the study’s conclusions using a 100 point scale where 100 is the maximum harm and zero indicates no harm. The first chart broadly illustrates all 20 drugs by “harm to users” and harm to others” while the second chart illustrates those drugs on 16 criteria from drug-specific mortality to dependence to family adversities.

The study concluded that alcohol was the most harmful drug overall (72 out of 100), followed by heroin (55 out of 100), and crack cocaine (54 out of 100). The most harmful drugs to users were crack cocaine, heroin, and methamphetamine (scores 37, 34, and 32, respectively), whereas alcohol, heroin, and crack cocaine were the most harmful to others (46, 21, and 17, respectively). Cannabis (aka marijuana) had an overall harm score of 20, putting it in eighth place behind amphetamine (aka speed) and before GHB (aka liquid ecstasy).

First, a ranking by harm to user and harm to others:

ranking-20-drugs-and-alcohol-by-overall-harm-2

Next, a ranking by overall harm:

ranking-20-drugs-and-alcohol-by-overall-harm

Source: David Nutt, Leslie King, Lawrence Phillips, “Drug Harms in the UK: A Multicriteria Decision Analysis,” The Lancet, Nov. 1, 2010

Written by LeisureGuy

17 January 2013 at 11:36 am

Posted in Drug laws, Government

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