Saturday, March 25News For London

Legalisation and better mental health services can reduce drug-related crimes

The government announced a 10-year drug strategy for tackling drug-related crimes in England and Wales last Monday. As a part of this strategy, Class A drug users could face losing their passports and driving licences as Boris Johnson said he will be “coming down tough on lifestyle drug users”.

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The Home Office revealed data saying that 300,000 drug addicts contribute to nearly half of burglaries, robberies and shoplifting along with nearly half of all homicides in England, costing the country nearly £20bn each year.

What is the new strategy?

Here are the four policies the government proposes:

  1. Crackdown on Drug gangs:

As a part of the county lines operation, the government will allot £300 million to cut off the supply chain of drugs in big cities. This combative strategy aims to take down 2000 county gangs in an attempt to protect young and vulnerable people that often fall prey to these gangs.

2. Lifestyle Drug Users

As a part of this strategy, Class A drug users could face losing their passports and driving licences as Boris Johnson said he will be “coming down tough on lifestyle drug users”.

3. Drug Treatment

The government has allocated £780m in funding for the drug treatment system in England. The development of a better support system for the recovery of dependants and addicts will be of key importance under this policy.

4. Drug Testing:

The policy aims to expand the use of drug testing by the police on making arrests so drug users can be directed to treatment or other relevant support programs.

Could Legalisation be one possible solution?

As more and more countries across the world are legalising drugs like marijuana, the new policy by the UK government may be perceived by many as a step in the backwards direction.

A survey asking people if legalising certain drugs could be one possible solution found that a majority of 47.4% people favoured legalising, while 23.7% people were against it and 28.9% people were unsure.

Image Credits: Google Survey

A survey done by YouGov reported that a majority of people support the legalisation (38%) or decriminalisation (22%) of the sale and possession of Cannabis in the UK, however, a majority said that hard drugs such as ecstasy, LSD, cocaine, amphetamines and heroine must stay illegal.

Image Credits: YouGov

Legalisation of drugs could lead to higher amounts of people seeking treatment. 

A drug user who chose to keep her identity anonymous told us: I can’t imagine having others go through what I did. I don’t ever think class-A’s should be legalised. Not a good idea, people will die. People forget addiction is a disease” 

Speaking on the new government strategy they said: “Taking ID’s seems too much – maybe a warning or a strike system should be introduced.”

Image Credits: Luke Severn

What Londoners think?

Our reporters walked down the street and asked Londoners’ opinions on the new government plan and drug use in the UK
Morgan, a student, said that she supports drug legislation because it’s very popular in the UK and it might help to stop illegal use.

R Whittaker, a professional worker, shared with our reporters that more education about drugs should be given to the youth and children, not only from schools but also from parents. “I think a lot of it is based on education, and growth and upbringing. It’s also about what parents are teaching, and all the information that is imparted to us at an impressionable age.”

Yuri is from Russia, a country that already has legislation on drugs, said that the main problem of the drug is also philosophical and existential problems.

Alice and Rosie said that there need to be more fundings in specific area and legalisation of  some drugs like in America.

Here is the video.

Solutions to tackle drug abuse and drug-related crimes

  1. Awareness and Education about drugs in schools

Survey results found that a majority of 78.9% people believe that awareness and education about drugs in schools is the best possible solution to reduce drug addiction and drug-related crimes in the UK.

Image Credits: Google Survey

2. Better mental health services

According to survey results, 73.7% of people said better mental health services could be key to fighting drug addiction and helping addicts and dependants.

Mind is a charity that spans across England. It offers support and advice to those suffering from mental health issues. One of the issues that they help with is substance abuse and addiction. Mind pledges that “we won’t give up until everyone experiencing a mental health problem gets support and respect. A member of the team from Essex, Andrea, spoke about what Mind does to support those struggling with addiction. She stated: “At Mind, we believe in fair chances for everyone. Addiction is not something to be looked down upon, it is a real struggle just like depression, autism and anxiety.” She went on to say: “We believe in beating addictions, understanding them and overcoming them”.

3. Legalising or decriminalising certain drugs like other countries

Evidence from all over the world shows that decriminalising drugs could result in reduced drug-related crimes. Since Portugal’s decriminalisation, drug crimes have dropped from about 14,000 per year in 2000 to an average of 5,000-5,500 per year. Imprisonment due to drug crimes reduced by 24% from 1999 to 2013. This has greatly eased overcrowding in prisons.

The same trend can also be seen in other regions.  Since Jamaica decriminalised marijuana possession in 2015, arrests caused by marijuana-related crimes have decreased by approximately 1,000 per month.  It is estimated that 15,000 charges will be reduced each year, which not only reduces the burden on the police but also eases the pressure on the entire judicial system.  After California decriminalised marijuana possession in 1976, it saved the justice system $1 billion in 10 years.