UK’s drug prevention activity ineffective, says ACMD

Despite ‘reasonably good evidence of what works’, the UK lacks a functioning drug prevention system, according to a new report from ACMD – with workforce competency ‘a key failing’.

Homeless drugs
A sole focus on ‘vulnerable groups’ can be counter-productive.

The Drug misuse prevention review was commissioned late last year in the wake of the new drug strategy to look at the best ways of preventing drug use and dependency among vulnerable groups. 

There is no ‘silver bullet’ to address vulnerability to drug use, the document states. However, the ACMD’s ‘strong advice’ is that ineffective, fear-based campaigns – the so-called ‘scared straight’ approach – should not be pursued, with funding better used elsewhere. The UK should aim for a strategy where prevention is integrated across policy in a ‘whole-system’ approach, it says, which will require investment in workforce training. 

A sole focus on ‘vulnerable groups’ limits the reach of prevention activities and can be counter-productive, the review concludes, potentially contributing to further stigmatisation and discrimination. ‘A focus solely on the characteristics of specific groups is likely to add to stigma and will obscure individuals’ unique differences in need and vulnerability,’ it states. ‘Moreover, it is essential to recognise that: vulnerability possibly associated with a specific group or characteristic does not automatically confer vulnerability on an individual who is a member of that group or shares that characteristic; not all of those who are vulnerable will go on to use drugs; and that drug use of vulnerable individuals will not necessarily escalate to a harmful level.’

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