Intended for healthcare professionals


An alternative to the war on drugs

BMJ 2010; 341 doi: (Published 13 July 2010) Cite this as: BMJ 2010;341:c3360

Have we missed the best argument in the current climate?

It is refreshing to see a reasoned argument about drug
policy given the more usual hysteria displayed when the
topic is debated. But I wonder if the best argument for
decriminalisation is underplayed by Stephen Rolles.

The current government faces the worst public finances for
decades and is desperately searching for ways to save money.
In another refreshing change the Justice Secretary seems to
have abandoned the "lock 'em up and throw away the key"
policy of his predecessors and has decided that fewer people
should be in prison.

Estimates of the direct cost to the UK of the War On Drugs
start about £4 billion and head towards £20 billion.
Possibly half of all crime is drug related and a very large
proportion of the prison population is there, ultimately,
because of drugs.

So, not only would decriminalisation improve public health
by reducing the collateral damage of the "War", but it could
save a fortune in government spending on criminal justice.
That sounds like a compelling argument in the current

Competing interests:
None declared

Competing interests: No competing interests

21 July 2010
stephen black
management consultant
london sw1w 9sr