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"Example is not the main thing in influencing others. It is the only thing."
Albert Schweitzer
"The history of liberty is a history of limitations of governmental power, not the increase of it."
Woodrow Wilson
"Nobody can give you freedom. Nobody can give you equality or justice or anything. If you're a man, you take it."
Malcolm X

Devising Effective Drug Policy

Courtesy Transform - Working for an effective drug policy

Introduction
The idea behind this briefing is to suggest a methodology for assessing the effectiveness of various policy alternatives.

This methodology is based around the concept of effectiveness, using specified aims and key performance indicators to provide its analytical framework. Whilst many of these indicators have not been finalised, we have come up with a series of questions to aid their development. This methodology is constantly evolving and we welcome input and feedback from interested parties.

Drug policy, like any social policy, should be designed to meet the needs of the majority. It is of supreme importance to remember that drug policy is only one inter-linked part of a wider social policy, and as such needs to be considered in a range of contexts. Crucially, any policy should seek to address the social factors that underlie both the use and misuse of all drugs, legal or otherwise.

UK drug policy has historically been driven by political imperatives, misplaced ideological crusades and characterised by an absence of evidence, evaluation or pragmatism. Whilst the UK Government has introduced an evidence base as part of its 10 year drug strategy Transform believes that the indicators chosen are wrong and the targets for these indicators unrealistic.

The four key targets in the strategy are:
Target 1: Halve the number of young people using illegal drugs, especially heroin and cocaine.
Target 2: Halve the levels of re-offending by drug misusing offenders to protect communities from drug-related and anti-social behaviour.
Target 3: Double the number of drug misusers in treatment.
Target 4: Halve the availability of drugs, especially heroin and cocaine on UK streets by 2008.
(For a more detailed analysis see Transform briefing on drugs and crime)

Criticism of these indicators and targets is widely shared across the drug field, in particular the lack of health and harm reduction indicators. The Association of Chief Police Officers' written submission to the Home Affairs Select Committee inquiry into drug policy reform contained the following analysis of the indicators and targets:

"The absence of any baseline data means that the targets set in the strategy were unrealistic and are now demoralising."

"The objectives lack credibility, which deters agencies from channelling their efforts towards targets that they know are impossible to achieve."

"In the case of the police service, there is an additional frustration in that Home Office performance indicators do not measure outcomes and are open to manipulation."

When the committee asked former Drug Tsar Keith Hellawell what the targets were based on, he answered: "Where did the actual figures come from? There was no statistical analysis."

The methodology presented here is a response to these obvious shortcomings and is, in essence, a call to apply a more rigorous evidence based analysis and evaluation process to UK drug policy. Only then can we expect genuinely workable solutions to the drug related problems we face.

Part 1 outlines the suggested aims of an effective drug policy

Part 2 looks at performance indicators for evaluating if these aims are being achieved.

Part 3 looks at the available options for regulating the production and supply of drugs.

 
Part 1: Aims
These are the suggested aims of an effective drug policy:

  1. To Increase regulation and control of drugs trade
  2. To Reduce drug related ill health
  3. To Reduce drug related crime
  4. To Extend provision of honest and effective drug education and information
  5. To Maximise effectiveness of drug-related expenditure and taxation of drug trade
  6. To Protect civil rights of drug users and non-users
  7. To Encourage inclusion of communities in drug policy formation


Part 2 Key Performance Indicators (KPIs)
In this section we have produced a series of questions linked to each of the aims outlined above. Answering these questions will give an indication of how effective the policy is at achieving the given aim. Some of the answers will be a simple yes or no, others will provide quantitative or qualitative data that can display trends. Under some questions we suggest specific quantitative indicators that will show whether a drug policy is effective or not.

Drugs are an international as well as a local and national issue and to reflect this we have divided the questions accordingly. This analysis has been devised with UK drug policy in mind but is adaptable to different locations and scales by incorporating relevant questions and KPIs.

REGULATORY FRAMEWORK
Main aim: To provide effective regulation and control of the drugs market

International

National

Local

HEALTH
Main aim: To reduce drug related ill health

International

National

Local


CRIME
Main aim: To reduce drug related crime

International

National

Local


EDUCATION AND INFORMATION
Main aims: Increase knowledge and understanding of drugs and drugs issues

International

National

Local

MEETING THE NEEDS OF LOCAL COMMUNITIES
Main aim: Encourage inclusion of communities in drug policy formation

International

National

Local


ECONOMICS
Main aim: Increase revenue and maximise effectiveness of drug related expenditure

International

National

Local

CIVIL RIGHTS
Main aim: Protect civil rights of drug users and non-users

International

National

Local


Part 3
There is a choice of regimes for controlling and regulating the production, supply and use of drugs. There are six basic models for distribution of drugs:

1) No regulation
Examples: raw magic mushrooms, poppies, fly agaric toadstools, datura, morning glory seeds.
Controls: no controls, legal or otherwise

2 Over the counter sales - supermarkets, grocers, health food shops
Examples: aspirin, paracetamol, poppers, glue, St John's Wort, tea, coffee.
Controls: Controls over production, limited controls at point of sale

3) Licensed sales
Examples: beer, spirits, tobacco.
Controls: Strict controls over licencee and purchaser e.g. age, state of intoxication

4) Pharmacy sales
Examples: Kaolin and morphine, codeine linctus, amphetamine-like decongestants, Dual products aspirin/paracetamol with dihydrocodeine.
Controls: Controls over pharmacist

5) Doctor's prescription
Examples: tranquillisers, anti-depressants, methadone, chlorpromazine, anti-psychotics, thalidomide, diamorphine.
Controls: Strict controls over doctor

6) Criminal marketplace (Prohibition)
Examples: LSD, heroin, cannabis, speed, crack.
Controls: Legal bans on production, supply and possession. Illegal production, supply and use in practice have almost no controls.


Putting this methodology into operation….

Having set out the aims, methods of distribution, and indicators for measuring effectiveness we are able to undertake an informed assessment of current policy, as well as evaluate the potential effectiveness of policy alternatives.

We can take each drug in turn and analyse what is likely to happen with each system of distribution. With this information to hand the choice and responsibility over the direction of future policy is ours.


For more information visit Transform