Intended for healthcare professionals


A new drug strategy for the UK

BMJ 2017; 358 doi: (Published 03 August 2017) Cite this as: BMJ 2017;358:j3643
  1. Adam R Winstock, founder1,
  2. Niamh Eastwood, executive director2,
  3. Alex Stevens, professor in criminal justice3
  1. 1Global Drug Survey, London, UK
  2. 2Release, London, UK
  3. 3School of social policy, sociology, and social research, University of Kent, UK
  1. Corresponding author: a.winstock{at}

But no real prospect of reducing harm

The UK government’s 2017 Drug Strategy published in July 2017 continues where its 2010 predecessor left off.1

The overarching aim of both is to reduce all illicit drug use and increase the number of people recovering from drug dependence. The new strategy promises enhanced monitoring of the prevalence of substances controlled by the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971, but offers no real prospect of reducing the harms associated with their use.

Nowhere is this more evident than in the failure to introduce new measures to prevent drug related deaths, which have risen across all drug classes since 2010 to an all time high,2 now outstripping the number of traffic fatalities in the UK. Marked increases in deaths involving cocaine and 60 fatalities involving the synthetic opioid fentanyl highlight the need for the government to innovate and invest in drug interventions that work, while objectively reviewing drug regulation and treatment directives that may be costing lives.3

The new drug strategy starts well by highlighting the protective effects of family and the need to build resilience among the young …

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