Skip to main content

Illegal Drug Use

Volume 579: debated on Monday 28 April 2014

Drug use in England and Wales has fallen to its lowest level since records began, in 1996. The number of heroin and crack cocaine users in England has fallen below 300,000 for the first time since 2004-05. Drug-related deaths in England and Wales have continued to fall over the last three years. Numbers successfully completing drug treatment free of dependency in England have risen since 2009-10.

I congratulate the Government on their success in reducing the use of certain drugs, but we are still not recording the use of many drugs, particularly legal highs. Given that we are seeing a fall in cannabis use but there is a great deal of evidence of an increase in legal high cannabinoid use, does the Minister not agree that if we want to protect our young people, we need to record all the drugs they are taking, including legal highs?

I agree with the thrust of my hon. Friend’s question and I agree that many of the chemical highs or new psychoactive substances—the so-called legal highs, although I prefer not to use the word “legal” because that implies that they are both legal and safe and some are neither—can be more dangerous than other drugs that people recognise as dangerous. There has been a decline in drug use among young people, but he is right to draw attention to that aspect. I established an expert panel on it late last year and I look forward to receiving its recommendations shortly.

Drugs are often produced and sold by international crime gangs. What is the Minister doing to work with the international community to protect this country from the illegal movement and sale of drugs by such gangs?

I am happy to say that in the cross-governmental serious and organised crime strategy, we work in partnership with countries where drugs are produced and transported, as well as with the wider international community, to disrupt the organised criminal networks that distribute drugs. Our approach is to build political will and practical capacity to tackle high priority criminal groups. The Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department, my hon. Friend the Member for Staffordshire Moorlands (Karen Bradley), takes this matter very seriously.