UK - Tony's drug policy map for Gordon (UK)

Discussion in 'Drug Policy Reform & Narco Politics' started by Lunar Loops, Jan 25, 2007.

  1. Lunar Loops

    Lunar Loops Driftwood Platinum Member & Advisor

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    Feb 10, 2006
    from ireland
    This from the TRANSFORM Drug Policy Foundation website (
    Tuesday, January 23, 2007

    Tony's drug policy map for Gordon

    In an interesting development the Sunday Times reports on a 'confidential' memo written by David Bennett, the head of the No 10 policy directorate, in advance of a policy summit held at Chequers last Friday.

    The memo, according to the Times, 'outlines the prime minister’s “emerging ideas” for his last months in office which he hopes will be so far advanced when his successor takes over that Brown will have to follow them.'

    It apparently "brings together suggestions from policy groups set up by Blair in the wake of last autumn’s botched “coup” attempt by Brownites. Their job was to study ideas for Britain’s long-term future."

    Internal Labour political shenanigans aside there was an interesting inclusion in the list of emerging ideas:

    "Prescribing addictive drugs in a bid to help tackle drug-related crime."

    Now obviously this isnt a new idea. The UK has been prescribing heroin for decades (even though it is limited to a couple of hundred recipients today) and also widely prescribes the synthetic opiate methadone as well as some various other drugs to long term addicts, including amphetamines. However, despite promises made by David Blunkett to expand prescribing (back when he was Home Secretary - to the Home Affairs Select Committee on drugs in 2002) and some promising pilot projects like the Swiss-style heroin prescribing drop in centre in London, the pace of change has been glacially slow.

    The obstacle has been primarily a political one - both in Government and within the medical establishment. Politicians have been reluctant to be seen putting money into providing drugs to addicts - since whilst it makes all sorts of sense on any rational cost benefit analysis (using public health or criminal justice measures) it makes potentially terrible headlines in the Daily Mail and other papers who have it in for the Government (as being 'soft' of drugs and crime etc). That said, the idea has had personal and editorial endorsements from a range of unlikely individuals and publications, including many in the media who the Government are most afraid of. This Government PR problem has been compounded by politics in the medical establishment who are also notoriously reluctant to embrace substiutute prescribing, for different but equally lame reasons.

    But then here it is on Tony's menu of legacy policy ideas. The idea actually was put to the Prime Minister, a second time, by 'blue skies adviser' John Birt's half of the Number 10 Strategy unit report back in 2003 but failed to have real traction (the report being supressed) and the alternative option of a massive increase in CJS administered coerced treatment apparently being more politically palatable. But now, third time lucky, Blair's advisors have once again alighted on the fact that prescribing to dependent users can potentially deliver excellent health and criminal justice outcomes (something UK drug policy has not seen alot of recently, or if we are being honest, ever).
    The danger is that, as the Times suggests "the chancellor’s allies have indicated that Brown will make a decisive break from Blair’s legacy when he enters Downing Street by refusing to keep to the 10-year policy review" and that the drug prescribing idea will fall by the wayside with the rest of them, ironically for a different set of political reasons. The hope is that this innovation may survive the 'break' from Blair's legacy, given that it's impossible for Blair to be associated with any such progressive reforms of drug policy during his time as boss. Maybe Brown will be the pragmatist on drug policy that Blair has failed to be - he's from the Treasury after all and does, one hopes, understand the concept of cost/benefit analysis, as well as the need to appease the tabloids.
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