Intended for healthcare professionals


Another drug strategy for the UK

BMJ 2021; 375 doi: (Published 21 December 2021) Cite this as: BMJ 2021;375:n3097
  1. Adam Winstock, honorary clinical professor1,
  2. Niamh Eastwood, executive director2,
  3. Alex Stevens, professor in criminal justice3
  1. 1Institute of Epidemiology and Health Care, University College London, London, UK
  2. 2Release, London, UK
  3. 3School of Social Policy, Sociology, and Social Research, University of Kent, UK
  1. Correspondence to: A Winstock a.winstock{at}

New promises, old contradictions

In 2017, we described the previous UK drug strategy as full of “false claims and empty promises.”1 The new 10 year strategy,2 announced in early December, brings much needed money to rebuild drug treatment services but lacks any real reform. Despite repeated calls from experts and politicians to adopt a new approach,3456 the plan does not mention drug consumption rooms or heroin assisted treatment, and the only reference to decriminalisation of drug possession is an unfounded statement that it would lead to increased drug use.7

The strategy comes after a decade of defunding that has led to loss of a skilled and dedicated workforce, followed by substantial increases in drug related deaths.89 Although enforcement and abstinence seemed to take centre stage in the government’s announcement of the strategy, most of the new money is to be spent on a “wide range” of treatment options and implementing recommendations in Carol Black’s report on delivering evidence based treatment.10 This offers the …

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