The government has failed in its approach to tackling the use of illicit drugs, a police chief has declared.
Ron Hogg, Police, Crime and Victims’ Commissioner for County Durham and Darlington, has criticised the government's continued approach to a strategy based on enforcement.
It comes after the government released an evaluation into its drug strategy.
Mr Hogg said: "The government’s own evaluation shows how important it is to concentrate on reducing the harm caused by the hidden market for illegal drugs.
"The report’s conclusion that ‘drugs are still widely available to those who want them’ is a real indictment of their strategy, published in 2010.
"The new Drug Strategy 2017, published a few weeks ago, does little more to tackle the harm caused by drugs.
"In 2010, the government set out to reduce the use of illicit and harmful drugs, yet the proportion of adults using illicit drugs has remained unchanged since 2010.”
Mr Hogg is though, more supportive of the shift in focus towards to helping drug users come to terms with their addiction.
The evaluation indicates that programmes of treatment, designed to help users to become less dependent on drugs, can be successful.
They are also good value for money, with £2.50 of public money saved for every £1 spent on structured drug treatment.
Mr Hogg recently published ‘Towards a Safer Drug Policy’, which was widely supported at an international conference in Durham in July.
He said: “I am calling for a fundamental review of UK drugs policy, which should be firmly based on evidence and focused on reducing harm.
"It’s vital that people receive treatment to help them recover from their addiction.
"It’s important to intervene at the earliest possible opportunity and provide alternatives to criminalisation so that drug users are more prepared to seek treatment and improve their life-chances.
"This approach will help take power away from the organised gangs who control the drugs market and make so many people’s lives a misery.”
Mr Hogg is keen to work with the government, politicians from all parties and a wide range of stakeholders to develop and deliver an effective strategy to limit the market for drugs in the future.