By Dylan Graham
Ron Hogg, the Police, Crime and Victims’ Commissioner for County Durham, believes that the UK must adopt alternative drug policies as the current system is failing. This comes less than two years after Mr Hogg endorsed a program that helps cannabis users to deal with their habit rather than being prosecuted. The new scheme aims to reduce the number of heroin users from stealing to fund their addictions, as well as lower the number of drug related deaths.
This adds to the ongoing debate of drug legislation in the UK, with supporters of policies such as this claiming that drug addiction should be treated as a medical problem and that drug addicts should not be criminalised. However, critics of this scheme claim that it will just feed addictions rather than help people get clean. It is also controversial as many believe that the money being used to fund such a program should instead be spent on catching suppliers of drugs. The cost of supplying medicinal heroin is roughly £15,000 per person per year, however, this is a third of the cost of keeping someone in prison. With heroin related deaths on the increase in recent years, it seems that there should be a revaluation as to how to tackle such an issue.
Due to the controversial nature of drug legislation, none of the main political parties in the UK are committed to radical change in policy, something that Mr Hogg believes is necessary to overcome the current issues caused by drugs. It is my opinion that there needs to be a drastic change in drug legislation policy in the UK.
The current criminalisation of drugs has been the stance for decades now and there have been no signs of a reduction in drug use, and drug related deaths from heroin have been increasing. If the results from this scheme prove to be positive, it could be detrimental in changing social attitudes towards a medical understanding of addiction, rather than a criminal one.
The bottom line of policies such as this is to get people into recovery and to change their lifestyle. Due to the polarised nature of the current political climate, I think it’s important that people see the compassionate nature of this scheme, looking past it as simply ‘funding addiction’, but instead helping people in the long-term to improve their lives.
Ultimately, drugs are never going to disappear, and it is therefore important to acknowledge and overcome the problems that they cause to people, instead of waging war on the issue and pushing drugs into the criminal underworld where they cannot be monitored.
The new scheme is set to be implemented by the end of the year.