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Drugs: Misuse

Volume 479: debated on Monday 1 September 2008

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what recent steps the Government has taken to reduce levels of illegal drug consumption. (221335)

[holding answer 22 July 2008]: In February, the Government published the new 10-year drug strategy, Drugs: protecting families and communities, which sets out the action that will be taken to address the harms caused by drug misuse and to reduce levels of drug consumption. This strategy builds on the successes of the previous drug strategy, focusing action where it will generate the greatest benefit and extending the reach and effectiveness of our interventions.

Since the introduction of the previous strategy in 1998, we have seen significant falls in the self-reported use of illegal drugs. Data from the British Crime Survey show that in 2007-08, compared to 1997, the proportion of respondents aged 16-59 reporting the use of any illegal drug in the year preceding the survey fell from 12.1 per cent. to 9.3 per cent., while the proportion reporting the use of class A drugs remained stable. The same data show us that, compared to the previous year, there have been significant reductions in the use of cocaine, ecstasy, amphetamines and cannabis.

This pattern is repeated among young people. Data from the survey show that, among young people aged 16-24, class A drug use has fallen from 8.6 per cent. in 1997 to 6.8 per cent. in 2007-08, while the use of any illegal drug has fallen from 31.8 per cent. to 21.3 per cent. over the same period. Again, there have been falls in the use of individual drugs compared to the previous year, including cocaine, ecstasy, amphetamines and cannabis.

The drug strategy takes a comprehensive approach to reducing the demand for, and consumption of, illegal drugs. This approach spans:

prevention activity through more effective drug education and information, and through early targeted interventions with the families and young people who are most at risk of developing problems; interventions through the criminal justice system where problematic drug misuse has led to offending, coupled with tough enforcement action to tackle the supply of illegal drugs;

effective treatment and support, to help people to overcome problems with drugs and to re-establish their lives; and

communications activity, to support parents in preventing drug use among their children, and to increase the confidence and resilience of communities.

Copies of the drug strategy were placed in the Library at the time of its publication and I refer my hon. Friend to the actions in the strategy which are being taken to reduce the use of illegal drugs.