In 2010 the government reported that drug use cost the UK more than £15 billion a year. One of the key findings of this report was that addiction is not something that occurs spontaneously, in isolation, but is linked to other factors such as homelessness, mental health issues and alcohol abuse.
The government’s strategy to reduce drug abuse focuses on these contributory factors to prevent people beginning to experiment with drugs, as well getting drug dealers off the streets, and helping those who are addicted. This policy is being pursued by the Home Office, rather the Department for Health, as many of these costs are the result of crime caused by drug abuse.
Many resources are available for schools to work on education about the risks of drug taking, providing a blanket level of preventative measures available to all.
Local Area Authorities are also encouraged to identify children at greater risk of drug abuse due to various factors, such as poor academic performance, or family background and refer them for additional support. Early Intervention and Public Health Grants fund these initiatives and pay for more substance misuse jobs.
Worried parents do not have to wait to be noticed, but can also request support from councils and have their children brought into the system if they are concerned about their behaviour.
These measures all work to reduce the demand for drugs, making selling them less rewarding for the amount of risk it presents, and therefore lowering the levels on the streets in a holistic way.
The Government and Police are also focussed on restricting the supply of drugs available to people. Drugs sold online are a relatively new phenomenon and are a priority for the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency. Legal Highs – drugs too new to have been classified as illegal – are primarily sold online and it’s here that the Regulatory Agency can help, ensuring anything sold intended for ingestion is subject to the full force of the law.
Both the NHS and health charities focus on helping people recover from drug abuse, trying to intervene when people are already in the system, for example by referring people to recovery programmes while in prison on related charges.
Interventions here are important as they prevent people relapsing into drug use when they are released, and help to break the cycle that funds drug dealers with proceeds of crime.