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Sunday, 21 December 2014

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Education key to tackling drug issues, say Cumbria's experts

Education is key to tackling drugs issues, Cumbria’s experts have said.

Their response came after the Government was urged to start a wide-ranging public debate on the UK’s drug policy – including the possibility of legalisation.

Following a year-long inquiry, the Commons Home Affairs Committee yesterday said strategies to tackle drugs problems were failing, and called on the prime minister to look at alternatives.

It wants the government to examine systems in other countries where drugs such as cannabis are “depenalised” – with possession of small amounts not subject to criminal penalties, even though they are illegal. The prime minister has also been urged to consider the effects of legalisation overseas.

Cumbria Alcohol and Drug Advisory Service (CADAS) provides support for those trying to break drug habits, another area where the government has been accused of lacking focus.

Helen Davies, young people’s service manager for CADAS, explained why some people think legalising drugs could help.

She said: “The hope is that, if they don’t have these legal restrictions, there won’t be so many adulterants mixed in, and there will be more information available.

“So, people can see what ingredients are in them, they can see dosage suggestions, they’re more informed as to what they’re doing and what they’re taking. At the moment none of that information is available.”

But, Mrs Davies said, better education on drugs would be essential for this to work – another area where the home affairs committee said the UK needs to pool more resources. CADAS runs educational programmes but struggles to fund them.

A public health spokesman for NHS Cumbria agreed education was “very important”.

He added: “For Cumbria, harmful alcohol use should be prioritised alongside efforts to reduce the dangers associated with drug use. The Home Affairs Select Committee report is another contribution to the debate around drugs in Britain which will no doubt be studied with interest.” Yet a Government spokesman said: “Drugs are illegal because they are harmful – they destroy lives and blight communities.

“Our current laws draw on the best available evidence. A Royal Commission on drugs is simply not necessary. Our cross-government approach is working.”

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