Two thirds of British adults think the government is doing too little to tackle addiction issues in the UK, according to a survey of more than 1,700 people by YouGov. The same proportion also believe that current policy does a bad job of minimising the harm of drugs to those who use them or to society as a whole. ‘The public are highly critical of the current government’s approach,’ says YouGov.
The figures are even higher among Labour voters, with 76 per cent believing that the government isn’t doing enough to tackle addiction issues and 70 per cent that the government is failing to reduce drug-related harm.
Among those surveyed overall, 7 per cent reported having had an addiction problem themselves, with 10 and 11 per cent respectively reporting that they’d had a friend or family member with a problem.
While less than a fifth believed that criminalisation of people who used drugs was the right approach, there was little support for decriminalisation of most drugs. Although 45 per cent supported the decriminalisation of cannabis and 28 per cent magic mushrooms, just 17 per cent supported decriminalising MDMA and 15 per cent cocaine. The figures for heroin and crack cocaine were 11 and 10 per cent respectively. More than half of respondents, however, backed the introduction of consumption rooms, with just a quarter stating that they were actively opposed.
This reflects the findings of a separate poll of 1,500 people carried out by Redfield and Wilton Strategies on behalf of the APPG for Drug Policy Reform, which found that 49 per cent supported overdose prevention centres. The poll also revealed that more than 60 per cent supported drug checking facilities at festivals and 67 per cent supported naloxone provision, while the most popular outcome for people found in possession of small quantities of drugs was education or treatment rather than prosecution. An additional sample of interviews with ‘red wall’ voters found similar results.
The Redfield and Wilson results ‘fly in the face of conventional political wisdom – seemingly held by both Labour and Conservative leaderships – that assumes that the public want a simplistic “tough on drugs” approach that condemns all those who consume drugs for whatever reason,’ said Forward Trust CEO Mike Trace. ‘The Labour leadership in particular seems to be concerned that swing voters in red wall seats have authoritarian views on drug policy issues, so any departure from tough messaging about clampdowns and condemnation would lose votes. But our survey found that the results of the survey of red wall voters mirrored the national picture pretty closely. We should avoid reading too much into one survey, that delivered mixed and sometimes contradictory results – but it is important for politicians to understand that the public recognises the complexity of the issues at stake, and has moved on from a blanket war on drugs sensibility.’
YouGov survey results here
APPG survey results here