Is it right to treat drug addiction as a health issue rather than a criminal offence?

A proposal published today suggests that drug use should be legalised in order to cut crime and improve health.

The use of illegal drugs should be decriminalised to help addicts and drastically reduce crime, according to a leading doctor.

Prof Sir Ian Gilmore, former president of the Royal College of Physicians suggested that relaxing the law on drugs such as heroin, cocaine and cannabis would not increase the number of addicts and could save vast amounts of taxpayers’ money.

‘There is a lot of evidence that the total prohibition of drugs, making them totally illicit, has not been successful at reducing the health burden or the impact on crime,’ he said.

Under his proposals, those caught in possession of drugs will be fined by a civil court rather than face charges in a criminal court, with the aim of helping people with addiction problems instead of putting them in prison.

According to a spokesperson for the drug charity Release, Portugal’s 2001 decriminalisation led to a cut in overdoses and a fall in the number of young users.

‘The current system isn’t working. It doesn’t deter drug use,’ she said.

But David Green, director of think tank Civitas, said: ‘Legalising drugs would simply result in a lot more people taking them.’

A Home Office spokesman added, ‘Drugs such as heroin, cocaine and cannabis are extremely harmful and can cause misery to communities across the country.’

Have your say on the notion. Do you believe crime rate would be reduced if drugs were made available on the NHS? Do you think the legalization of drugs would improve health, or cause a downward spiral of drug abuse? Perhaps you think the current punishment for drug addiction fits the crime?

Post your comments below…

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