Taking Drugs Seriously: A Demos and UK Drug Policy Commission report on legal highs

This report was published in May 2011.

“The proliferation of new psychoactive substances, or ‘legal highs’, in recent years has thrown the existing regulatory measures for drugs into sharp relief. As quickly as policy makers seek to control new substances through the Misuse of Drugs Act, others are being manufactured and put on the market. The effects of these new substances are unknown and untested; it is this uncertainty combined with easy accessibility that presents major challenges to public safety.

However, these challenges also provide an opportunity to look again at drug control policy without a rerun of redundant debates about whether to be ‘tough’ or ‘soft’ on drugs. Instead, this report adopts a systems approach and considers drug policy as a ‘wicked issue’ to which there is no solution, and no ultimate winners or losers.

It is 40 years since the Misuse of Drugs Act became law, and the ‘drug problem’ is no nearer being solved. Taking Drugs Seriously argues that it is time for a new approach to policy making, legislation and debate on drugs issues, focusing on developing consensus while building better evidence about what works.

A background paper, which reviewed international experiences of regulating new psychoactive substances, was prepared for this project by Professor Peter Reuter of the University of Maryland, and published by UKDPC.”

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